Dr. S. Lewis Johnson continues his discussion of the different types of atonement. The Scriptures relating to universal atonement are set forth.
[Prayer] Father, we are grateful to Thee for another opportunity to study the Scriptures. We thank Thee for the word of God and for the blessing that it has been to us as wielded by the Holy Spirit. We thank Thee for Jesus Christ’s saving work, for the record of it in the Scriptures, for the way the Spirit has applied it to our lives, and brought us into the possession of everlasting life.
We ask Lord, as we study again tonight that Thou wilt guide use through the Spirit illuminating our minds so that we may understand the truth. We realize, Lord that we are dealing with questions that are very difficult and we pray that Thou will give us light. Above all, deliver us from any kind of bypath that may lead us away from the central facts of the gospel and the great need of the hour that Jesus Christ be proclaimed as the only Savior from sin. Now we ask that each one of us be subject to the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit in this hour for Christ’s sake. Amen.
[Message] We’re continuing our series of studies in “The Design of the Atonement or For Whom Did Christ Die?” Our question is this, did Christ die to save all men indiscriminately or to save his elect personally and definitely. Or to put it in another way, did Christ die to render savable all men, or did he die to save certain men. That’s our question. We have been dealing with the question itself. We sought to decide precisely what was the question. Then we looked at the history of the interpretation that has been placed upon this question of the design of the atonement, considering the Arminian solution, the Calvinistic solution, and some other types of variations from these solutions.
And now we are in the midst of dealing with the theological and scriptural answers to the problem. And we have dealt with the theological arguments for universal atonement, the argument from universal gospel preaching, the argument from the grace of God, the argument from the sin of unbelief, the argument from faith as a second saving instrumentality, and the argument from the evangelists’ message. And we have sought to analyze these objections — they are certainly substantial objections — and substantial theological arguments for a universal atonement and at least at this point we have concluded that these theological arguments are not unanswerable.
In this study we continue our discussion, or we turn to the discussion of scriptural arguments for universal atonement. In other words, we want to turn now to the Scriptures themselves, and bring forth the arguments that have been offered in support of the design of the atonement as Jesus Christ dying to save all men indiscriminately or that Jesus Christ died to render all men savable. So, we’re dealing now with capital B in this outline, the scriptural arguments for universal atonement, and the first argument is one that is of great significance, I think, the argument from the term “all” or “every.”
Now, first I would like to make a general statement in connection with this. So that again we fully understand the force of this argument, and also what those who do not accept this argument say in opposition to it. Augustinians that is those who believe in definite atonement do not deny that he died for all men. In other words, they are firm that there are senses in which it is proper to say that Christ died for all men. They deny, however, that he died equally and with the same design for all men. For example, he died that he might stop the immediate execution of the penalty of the broken law upon our whole apostate race.
The fact that we are living today in an age in which the gospel is proclaimed and in which men have an opportunity to respond, that fact is the result of the death of Jesus Christ on the cross at Calvary. The result flows from Christ’s saving work. In that sense, it is proper to say that he died for men; for all, in the sense that there is now an age in which we may proclaim the gospel. He died that he might secure, by his death, the blessings of common grace for all men. We have civil government that is civil government of a sort. We have a government that protects its citizens to some extent; in some particular governments more, in some governments less. The strange things about the age in which we are living is that the citizens seem to be more protected in some of our Communistic governments than they are in our free governments, but nevertheless it is the function of government to protect. That is one of the blessings of common grace that is traceable to the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.
We also have the restrain of sin. The Holy Spirit restrains the manifestation of sin in the present time. If you think men are evil, if you thought for example, when you looked at your TV set and saw Yasa Arafat saying that he had come with an olive branch in one had, and something else in the other hand. I was thinking about what was under his garment. And if you think that that was probably the highlight of human depravity, when the representatives of all those nations stood up and applauded that gangster, if you think that was the highlight of human depravity, you are wrong. That is what we see when sin is restrained. The Holy Spirit is restraining the full manifestation of sin. That would be a lovely place to be, in a gathering such as that, if sin were unrestrained. The restraint of sin is one of the blessings of common grace, and that was secured for us by the saving work of Jesus Christ. He died that he might lay the foundation for the offer of pardon on the condition of faith. In fact, all of the blessings of men flow from his work on the cross. And if they flow from his work on the cross, then they were intended, or his death was intended to do this. So, it is proper for us to say, all of us to say, regardless of our theological position on this question, it is proper for us to say Jesus Christ died for all men. But it is also the Augustinians’ position that he denies that Jesus Christ died equally and with the same design for all men.
Denial of universal atonement does not mean the denial of any relation of men to his death. So, let’s remember that, and in our affirmation of what we may believe one way or the other, if you oppose the view that Jesus Christ died in order to save certain me, you at least should acknowledge that while there view may be that they deny that he died with the same design for all men, they do affirm that they believe that in some senses he died for all men. And I think also that the knowledge of these facts will help us if we take the opposite position. We should be just as fair to those who may hold the other view, if we hold a more restricted view.
Now, that is my general statement. We’re dealing with the argument from the use of the term “all” or “every.” So, now I want to say just a word about the term “all.” I want to point out that in Scripture the word “all” has different meanings. And I want you to look at a few illustrations of these different meanings. Perhaps, you think that the word “all” means every individual.
Now, let’s see if the New Testament supports that. I want to show, first of all that it does mean all, of all sorts. Let’s turn to Acts chapter 10, verse 36. Acts chapter 10, verse 36, this is a passage that occurs in the midst of Peter’s sermon in the house of Cornelius and beginning with the 34th verse of Acts chapter 10 we read, “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all).” That would seem that any fair interpretation of Acts chapter 10, verse 26 would take that to mean all of all sorts. He is Lord of every individual. Acts chapter 20 and verse 27, Paul is speaking addressing the Ephesian elders, giving them some of his last instruction. He states in the 27th verse, “For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.” And evidently he means by that the whole counsel of God, all that there is to it. So, we can say the word “all” does mean all of all sorts, upon occasions.
Now, I want to try to show you that this term “all” means all of some sorts on occasion. Let’s turn over to Romans chapter 5, and verse 18. Now, here we read, “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation;” now that means all men of every kind. “Judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” But does all there mean all, of all sorts? Well, if we believed in universalism, if we believed that everybody received justification of life, then yes. But the great, great majority of Christian commentator, I would presume it’s about ninety-nine percent affirm that this “all men” in the latter part of the verse is a limited group. So, here all means of some sorts or a more limited all.
Let’s turn over to Ephesians 4, in verse 6. In verse 4 Paul says, “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. Well, now we could say that God is God of all, but do we say that God is Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. Well, now we are going to give this a limited sense, and particularly as it becomes evident in that last clause that you all, he’s talking about believers. So, when he says one God and Father of all, he probably means of all believers; so all may mean all of some sorts, a limited all.
Now, also all may mean some of all sorts. Now, I want you to turn with me to Mark chapter 11, in verse 32; Mark chapter 11, in verse 32, “But if we shall say, of men; they feared the people: for all men counted John that he was a prophet indeed.” Now, it is evident from the context of this passage that the all men who counted John a prophet does not refer to every man universally, but only all, in again a limited sense. What someone has called some of all sorts of men. Let’s look at Romans chapter 14, verse 2. I have lots of illustrations of each one of these types of meaning. I’m just giving you a few that I hope will make the points. Romans chapter 14, in verse 2, “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.”
Now, common sense will tell us, I’m sure that there is no one who believes that he can eat all things. But surely this means all edible things, all things, some of all kinds, all kinds of food. Not necessarily every bit of thing, we cannot eat that. Now, in case you’re in someone’s house and they serve something that you don’t particularly like, you can call this text to your support. One believeth that he may eat all things, but all things does not mean necessarily all things and you would like to renege on the particular dish that is before you. I don’t think you will get invited back, however.
Now, we want to turn to these specific texts. I’ve just said this in order, I’ve given you these illustrations in order that you may see that when we see the term all, we must ask ourselves, what does the context indicate is the meaning of the term all here. Well, let’s look at an Old Testament passage, Isaiah chapter 53. Isaiah chapter 53 and verse 6, now I know that some of you are wondering when I would ever get to the Bible itself in this series of studies , now we’re there, so we’re going to be looking at texts of Scripture primarily. Isaiah chapter 53, in verse 6; here we read, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Now, here are some universal expressions, “all we like sheep have gone astray.” Well, we could understand that to mean every single person has gone astray, because that’s true to theology. What shall we say is the meaning of the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all?”
Now, here are some things that we need to notice. In the first place, the “us all” is a reference to those for whom the prophet is speaking. He is giving words which are the words of us all, whoever us all refers to. I want you to notice that the “us all” referred to here are individuals who understand the meaning of the servant’s work of atonement. They understand, they say, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” The us all, these we all, they understand the ministry of the servant of Jehovah. They have been enlightened. They understand that he was the servant. They understand that he has taken their sins. Furthermore, they have confessed their past sin. “Who hath believed our report? To whom was the alarm of the Lord revealed, for he grew up.” They’re looking back now, from the stand point of the future they’re looking back over their decision that they made when he was here on the earth. For — and all of these verbs, by the way, are in the past tense in the original text. Many of your modern translations have rendered them in the past. I’ll render them as I read verses 2 and 3. “For he grew up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he had no form nor comeliness; and when we saw him, there was no beauty that we should desire him.” They now see the mistake that they have made in their reaction to the servant of Jehovah’s when he was in their midst. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.”
In other words, they are individuals who understand the significance of the suffering Savior of Jehovah’s ministry. They can only be believers. They can only be believers. Now, if you have any doubt about that, notice the fifth verse, and the last clause, “and with his stripes we were healed.” They referred to the fact that they have been healed. They were talking about themselves as believers. Notice the 8th verse, “He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? For he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.” Now, it is said that he dies for the sin of God’s people. The “us all” is explained by the transgression of my people. In verse 12, we read, “and he bore the sin of many.” The “us all” is explained by the many. In verse 11, it says, “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge.” By the knowledge of him, “shall my righteous servant justify many.” They are they by his stripes they have been healed. So the “us all” is the remnant of Israel which has come now, by virtue of the saving work of the Lord Jesus Christ in the last days, to an understanding of what transpired when our Lord was here, at his first coming. And how they were disobedient, they have confessed their sin. They have acknowledged the fact that he has died for them. It’s evident I think, that this us all is not every single individual.
Let’s turn over to the New Testament, John chapter 12, verse 32. John chapter 12, verse 32, the Lord Jesus says in this text, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” Now, in John’s gospel, if one is drawn it is always an effective drawing. This verbiage is used of a number of things. It’s used of drawing a net to the shore, for example, with fish in it. Fishermen were acquainted with this verb. It is used of the drawing of a sort, and it’s used of the Father’s drawing men, through the Spirit, to Christ. “No man can come unto me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him,” we read in John chapter 6, in verse 44. Almost all of the commentators acknowledge the fact that there is evidence of resistance in this word. To be drawn suggests some resistance, but there is always an effective drawing. In other words, the drawing overcomes the resistance, so that it is effective. This is the great word for irresistible grace.
Now, he says here, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” Well, now all men are not saved, this is an effective word. Some men are saved, but not all men are saved. But now you, if you should take the other view point, you would not be willing to believe that the Bible teaches universalism would you? No. But it, in it’s usage in the New Testament, the usage is always effective. So, it cannot possibly mean, I will draw men, in the sense that I will appeal to them, and they may resist and turn away, as if I have made men savable, but I haven’t really saved. It’s evident that this all then must be a different kind of all than the universal all. Well, what kind of all could it be? It might be the all of all kinds of people. I” And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men,” that is Jews as well as Gentiles, men from every tribe, kindred tongue, and nation. All men, I think that this is undoubtedly what is meant in this case.
And I think one of the most interesting comments in connection with it is the comment of a 4th century preacher, John Chrysostom, called Golden Mouth, the greatest preacher of the 4th century, who in interpreting this, interpreted it precisely that way, and yet Chrysostom was a man who believed in an indefinite atonement, but he acknowledged that his text had to mean he draws Jews and Gentiles, all kinds of men to him. Well, let’s turn to Romans chapter 5, in verse 18 again. Romans chapter 5, verse 18, Paul says, “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” Are we to suppose from this text that justification of life came upon all men distributively and inclusively?
Now, you wouldn’t believe that, if you were a Calvinist who believed in indefinite atonement. What we have suggested is a kind of inconsistent Calvinism, but nevertheless it is possible to speak of such as being Calvinistic in their theology. Surely you would not believe that all men have justification of life. You would have to say that this is qualified by the context. That this means all men who believe, or all men who respond to the message, but the text says all men. So, you qualify that, you would have to qualify it.
In connection with this by the way, if you’ll turn over to 1 Corinthians 6, you see other instances how you must qualify. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6, verse 12, “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” Now, all things are not lawful for Paul. Murder is not lawful for Paul. Adultery is not lawful for Paul. Any of the other sins specifically spoken of in the word of God are not lawful for Paul. He means all things in a much more restricted sense. Chapter 10, in verse 23 says the same thing. Paul said it twice there. We need three times to say it. In verse 23 of chapter 10, he says, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.” There three times in one verse, so five times he’s use the term all things, and it doesn’t mean everything in any one of the cases. So, in Romans 5:18, we must understand this in a limited sense.
Now, in what limited sense shall we understand it. Well, let’s turn over the parallel passage to Romans 5:18 in 1 Corinthians chapter 15. 1 Corinthians chapter 15, in verse 22, and you’ll notice that this passage has the same general context as the one in Romans chapter 5. These are the two great passages in which Paul talks about the imputation of sin death. Notice that he says in verse 21, “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”
Now shall we understand these alls as beings exactly the same? “In Adam all die.” How many die in Adam? Every person without expecting, “Even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” Everyone without exceptions? No, not everyone without exception; well, let’s stop before we answer that. How could we understand this text? Well, we could understand it to teach universalism. We could understand those alls as being everybody, without exceptions, and say everybody without exception dies in Adam. Even so, in Christ everyone without exception, everyone is made alive. But we rebel against that’s so contrary to so many texts of the Bible, which say very plainly that not everybody is going to be saved. If this text taught universalism, then Judas would be saved and all of the other unbelievers who are already awaiting judgment. They shall be saved.
Well, we have these two alls, one clause then the very next clause we have another all. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” Now, they tell us in classes on Hermeneutics, that we should make a word mean the same thing in the same text if at all possible. Now, of course, I agree with that as a general principle. I think that is born out by the study of the Scriptures. But it’s only a help by some fallible teacher of Hermeneutics. And he must immediately, giving a rule like that, start giving examples of exceptions. Now, we don’t have to have a word mean the same thing in the same context. You needn’t look this up, I’m not sure you can find this book in your Bibles; I know this text real well. This is a text for men. All men in the same manner “Ye wives be in subjection to your own husband; that if any obey not the word, they may also, without the word, be won by the behavior of the wives.” That text has some application to married life, some application.
One of the members of this class came up to me tonight, asked about the physical condition of someone I know quite well. And I gave a favorable report. He said, “Well, in our prayers we have been blessed by God in getting answers to prayers in connection with sicknesses, in connection with jobs, but we haven’t been having so much luck in prayers concerning marriages.” I said, “Well that kind cometh not out except by prayer and fasting.” [Laughter] And we had a good laugh over it. This is a text that has to do with the relationship between husband and wife, but that thing I want you to notice is the word word. He says “If any obey not the word,” well that of course is the message f the gospel. “If any husband does not obey the word, they may also without,” now the Authorized Version says “without the word.” But I suspect that even if I know no Greek, because no one has ever won without the word.
Now, that doesn’t mean that no one is ever won without a Bible in their hands, but without the message no one is ever won. Nobody is ever saved except through the message of the gospel. But in the Greek text, there is no article; it should be rendered without a word. So, Peter’s advice is, wives you have a husband who is not converted, what should you do? Well, keep preaching at him all day long. Take him to as many Bible classes as you possibly can, make all kinds of devious engagements by which preachers may be present at the table when your husband is there. Arrange all kinds of meetings. In other words, in every possible way scheme so that someone who has the gospel comes across the path of your husband and you’re sure to get him saved.
I have a good friend, not anywhere near Dallas now, long time ago this happened many years ago. No one in this room knows whom I’m talking about, except possibly my wife. She wanted her husband to be saved. She tried all of the schemes that were possible. There was one left. That was Bob Theme is Houston, and so when she heard that Bob Theme was coming to town she said, “Ah this is my chance. I’m going to get Bob Theme over here and my husband will be converted.” And I was invited because I had been tried and found wanting. [Laughter] But I was his friends, and I was the means of getting him there, so we came, we sat down at the table, and we began to eat, and she began to talk, and she talked the whole meal [Laughter] about all kinds of things, some kind of inane. And after a little while, nothing happened, we got up, we left to go. As we walked down the step, I had told Bob all about this. As we got halfway down to the car, he turned to me and said, “Anyone can see why that man has not become a Christian yet.” [Laughter]
Now, this says that if any obey not the word, they also may with a word be won by the behavior of the wives. Now, there is the word, word, in the same verse with two different senses. One time it means the message of the gospel, another time it means a word, a spoken word. So, the fact that we have these two alls in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, in verse 22, does not mean that these alls must be given the same precise force. Now, there are some who are so impressed by the need to do that that they say this text must mean this. “As in Adam all die,” everybody dies in Adam. We all have sinned in Adam. We have all come under the judgment of death. We all die physically and we will die spiritually and eternally if we do not believe. Now, since this all must be the same all, then we must interpret the last clause to mean, “So in Christ shall all experience resurrection.” That is, those who believe will be resurrected unto life, and those who do not believe will be resurrected by resurrected unto a resurrection body in which they experience eternal death. So, they understand by this, no universalism but universal resurrection as the teaching.
The problem with that interpretation, however, is that it says “all in Christ shall be made alive.” How can we say an unsaved man is in Christ? Well, we might say that he experiences bodily resurrection because of Jesus Christ. All right, I’ll accept that. I’ll say that the bodily resurrection of the unsaved is because of Jesus Christ. For remember, all people are going to be resurrected. John says that in chapter 5, verses 28 and 29 of his book. Those who are believers are given a body, like unto Christ’s own glorious body, in which they may experience the full spiritual life throughout all eternity. Those who are of the unsaved and are resurrected are given a body in which they may experience eternal death. They do have a body. They are not just lost spirits throughout eternity. They have a body, but it’s not the body like unto Christ’s own glorious body. The thing that overthrows this interpretation, however, is that the word in verse 22 “made alive” is never used in the New Testament of anything but spiritual life. It is not used of this physical resurrection in that sense. Therefore, we must abandon that interpretation.
Well, what then does this text mean? “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all,” how many? “Shall be made alive.” Why, it is those prepositional phrases that determine the significance of the all. “For as in Adam,” well everybody is in Adam. In Adam everybody dies, since everybody is in Adam, everybody dies. But when he says, “so in Christ,” well only believers are in Christ. But all believers in Christ is what he means, so in Christ, all shall be made alive. It’s evident then that this all is not the same in number as the preceding, but it is qualified by the prepositional phrase, “in Christ.”
Well, let’s over at 2 Corinthians chapter 5, verse 14. These all texts don’t always mean all do they? 2 Corinthians chapter 5, verse 14, so now in the future when you say, “I don’t accept that doctrine that Christ died for the elect, because the Bible says all,” then you cannot say that anymore. You’ll have to be more theological. Now, you have some good arguments. I’m going to show you some good arguments, but these are not those good arguments, the heart of a good theologian is to learn the good arguments, and also to learn the arguments that are not really good. It’s not all go as easy as it seems to be going, because I have some difficulties. I am looking for some solutions for Mr. Pryor and some of the others.
Now, 2 Corinthians chapter 5, verse 14 says, “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all,” is that everyone, every person without exception? Well, then the next part of the verse reads, I am going to translate it as it is in the Greek text, and as it is found in most of the more recent versions, “then all died.” “If one died for all, then all died.” Then notice the next clause, “And that he died for all, that they who live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who died for them, and rose again.”
Now, I’m going to say more about this text later on, but you can see from this that when we read, “he died for all, then all died,” and in the next verse he’s talking about those who live, he’s talking about the fact that he died for all, and those all died, and those all live; so the all here, refers to those who live, it’s a limited all. Now, since I’m going talk about that later on, I will pass it by, and let’s go to one that’s a little more difficult. 1 Timothy chapter 2, verse 6. Now, you know, I’m just having a great time studying this for myself. I hope I don’t inflict too much of my laboratory on you, but I am enjoying studying all of these texts. So, I am stringing this out because I’m just having a good time studying the Bible.
1 Timothy 2, verse 6, now I’m going to say something about verse 4 under a different heading when we come to this heading, argument from passages that teach a universal saving will, we’ll deal with verse 4, which says, “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” But verse 6 also pertains to the problem under the heading of the argument from the term all or every, notice the 6th verse of 1 Timothy 2, “Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” In behalf of all, now does that refer to all men without exception, I don’t think so. Look at the context. The context begins in verse 1, in which Paul says to Timothy, “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”
Now, you’ll notice that he talks about men of different rank, or kings and those who are in authority. I submit to you, I don’t think this passage in itself can be used to prove either side of this teaching. But I submit to you that “a ransom for all” means all men without distinction of rank, without distinction of race, without distinction of nationality as these opening verses indicate. Pray for all men as kings and such as are in authority, so that the all means all kinds of men, not every man without exception, but ever man without distinction.
Now, let’s come over to one that is perhaps even more difficult. Hebrews chapter 2, in verse 9, Hebrews chapter 2, verse 9; now, in this text we read, “But we see Jesus,” this is page 1312 in the approved edition of the King James Version, “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 should taste death for every man.” For every man, does that mean everyone without exception? Well, what do we do in a case like this? Well, we say yes, and we don’t look at the context. No, we’ve learned to be a little more careful haven’t we? Wait a minute; let me see what the context says. Well, he talks in verse 10 about many sons, he says, “For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory.”
Now, he said just before that he’s tasted death for every man, but he talks in the next verse about bringing many sons unto glory. In the 11th verse he speaks about “he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified” and in the 12th verse he says, “I will declare Thy name unto my brethren.” He’s talking about these people for whom Christ died. He’s bringing many sons to glory, and now he calls them brethren. In the 13th verse he says, “And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me.” And now the sons who are brought to the glory, and the ones for whom Christ died have become “the children whom God has given me.” That suggests what out Lord says so often in the gospel of John about those whom the Father has given him shall come to him, and no many can come except it be given him of the Father. And then in verse 16, we read, “For verily he took not on him the nature of angels;” or he took not hold to help the angels, “but he took on him the seed of Abraham.” And now this everyone, these sons, these children, is called the seed of Abraham. I think the context indicates that every man means every man of the sons of God, of the children of God, of the seed of Abraham for whom Christ died. Well, the 9th verse then speaks of every individual, but is defined by the following context as seed of Abraham.
By the way, that text was the occasion of one of the most interesting divisions among those known as the Brethren. I don’t know whether you’ve ever heard of the Brethren or not. But they are a group of very fine Christians, but they have also been noted for some unusual divisions that have taken place. Now, all Christian groups have been noted for divisions. There are twenty-two different kinds of Presbyterian churches in the United States, and I think since there was a new one started a little over a year or go, there are now twenty-three or twenty-four. So, being systematic is not a province of the Brethren only, but they have had some spectacular divisions.
And of the most spectacular was one that occurred over this very text. Hebrews chapter 2, verse 9, “that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” Among a group of Brethren who were known as the Steward brethren, in New Zealand, in the morning meeting in which they were observing the Lord’s supper, a man got up and he read from J.N. Darby’s translation, which reads here, and it could be the meaning of the writer, that he should taste for everything, because that word is not neuter or masculine in gender. He said in the course of a little brief dissertation on “he should taste death for everything” that it’s a wonderful thing that Christ died for us, it’s a wonderful this that he died for, and he named two or three together things, and he said, “You know the greatness of the work of Christ is manifested in the fact that he even died for a blade of grass.” A blade of grass? Well that was everything, so that included a blade of grace. One brother got up in a meeting, and he said, “I’d like to object. I don’t think Christ died for every blade of grass.” And so there was a division in the assembly, and some people began to meet separately, the believed that Christ died for every blade of grass, and these other Brethren, good Christians, they began to meet in another place, because they didn’t believe that Christ died for every blade of grace.
Well, news travels fast among people that have close relationships, so someone in New Zealand wrote a letter back to the city of Edinburgh, I was told this by someone in Edinburgh. And there in Edinburgh there was a meeting of the Stewart Brethren, but only two families met in this meeting. So, every Sunday they came together they had their meeting. “Where two or three are gathered together,” they just barely made it. [Laughter] And so, the letter came from New Zealand from Brethren in fellowship with them, and it was read in the meeting, and the two families divided over the question of whether Christ died for every blade of grass.
Now, that story was told me really by Robert Little, I remember now, who was well known as the Bible teacher over the Moody Bible Institute’s radio station. Well, this is the text, after I heard that story; I must confess that I cannot read Hebrews 2:9, without thinking of the blade of grace division. Our text reads that he should face death fro every man, and that’s probably the way it should be read. As far as this text is concerned, there is no evidence that he died for every blade of grace.
Now, I want to say a word or two about the argument from the term world. So we move to Arabic II, argument from the term world. It’s claimed that the use of the term world in connection with Christ’s death argues for a general and indefinite atonement. Does not the Bible say that John the Baptist saw the Lord Jesus Christ and said, “Behold, the lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” Well, let me make a general statement again. First, I should like to suggest that the term world doesn’t always mean every individual in the world. Are you surprised that I should say that? I don’t think you are. Sometimes it refers to the world of believers. Look at John chapter 6 and verse 33, “For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.” Well, that doesn’t mean everybody in the world has life, but it does mean all the believers have life. Verse 51, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
There’s a question about what it means there. Romans chapter 11, verses 12 and 15, Paul says speaking about the present time and the relationship between Jews and Gentiles, “Now if the fall of them,” that is the Jews, “If the fall of them be the riches of the world,” now notice, Paul says if the falling away of the Jews, their unbelief be the riches of the world, well now, the falling away of the Jews, the unbelief of the Jews has not meant the riches of the world in the sense that they have to come to every individual, but it does mean that the riches of salvation have come to Gentiles as a result of the fall of the Jews. So here, of course, he refers to the world of believing Gentiles. Verse 15 has the same sense, “For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?” So, it may mean the world of believers.
Just for the sake of time, let me mention two other kinds of senses. The term world may mean the world as contrary to believers, John 1:10, I guess I should look at that one text. John 1:10 says, “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.” Is that every single person in the world? NO, that’s the world as the system, composed of its individuals, over against the believing element. John chapter 14, verse 17 has the same sense. And finally, the term world may refer to the remainder of mankind in distinction from the Jews. John 1:29, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” He does not mean that the sin of the whole world, every individual is taken away. He means that the sin of Jews and Gentiles is taken away. This is no longer and exclusive salvation, but it is ethnically universal. You might also compare Matthew chapter 26, verse 13; Matthew chapter 13 verse 28; and 1 Corinthians chapter 1 verse 21; and remember the text that says that Jesus Christ in John 4:42 “is the Savior of the world”
Well, we don’t have time to turn to the texts, but next time we begin with John 3:16, what does it mean, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son.” Is that a text for universal atonement? Then we will follow with 1 John chapter 2, “He’s the propitiation for our sins and not for ours only.” And then also 2 Peter 3:9, “He’s not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” And we shall deal with the argument from passages said to teach that some for whom Christ died may perish.
Our one hour is just up; let’s bow in a closing word of prayer.
[Prayer] Father, we are grateful to Thee for the privilege of the study of the Scripture.
[RECORDING ENDS ABRUPTLY]