People often wonder how Calvinists answer this question since they believe that he did not die “for” everyone — meaning simply that his death on the cross did not accomplish the salvation of everyone who has ever lived. This is often called the doctrine of “limited atonement”, though I prefer the term “particular redemption”. I’ve not heard a better way of answering it than in a sermon by Charles Haddon Spurgeon entitled, oddly enough, “Particular Redemption” (which happens to be the same sermon from which the excerpt I posted last week was taken). While the doctrine of limited atonement may be somewhat controversial, I hope that the conclusion of this sermon will be less so:
Leaving controversy, however, I will now answer a question. Tell me, then, sir, whom did Christ die for? Will you answer me a question or two, and I will tell you whether He died for you. Do you want a Saviour? Do you feel that you need a Saviour? Are you this morning conscious of sin? Has the Holy Spirit taught you that you are lost? Then Christ died for you and you will be saved. Are you this morning conscious that you have no hope in the world but Christ? Do you feel that you of yourself cannot offer an atonement that can satisfy God’s justice? Have you given up all confidence in yourselves? And can you say upon your bended knees, “Lord, save, or I perish”? Christ died for you. If you are saying this morning, “I am as good as I ought to be; I can get to Heaven by my own good works,” then, remember, the Scripture says of Jesus, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” So long as you are in that state I have no atonement to preach to you. But if this morning you feel guilty, wretched, conscious of your guilt, and are ready to take Christ to be your only Saviour, I can not only say to you that you may be saved, but what is better still, that you will be saved. When you are stripped of everything, but hope in Christ, when you are prepared to come empty-handed and take Christ to be your all, and to be yourself nothing at all, then you may look up to Christ, and you may say, “Thou dear, Thou bleeding Lamb of God! thy griefs were endured for me; by thy stripes I am healed, and by thy sufferings I am pardoned.” And then see what peace of mind you will have; for if Christ has died for you, you cannot be lost. God will not punish twice for one thing. If God punished Christ for your sin, He will never punish you. “Payment, God’s justice cannot demand, first, at the bleeding surety’s hand, and then again at mine.” We can today, if we believe in Christ, march to the very throne of God, stand there, and if it is said, “Art thou guilty?” we can say, “Yes, guilty.” But if the question is put, “What have you to say why you should not be punished for your guilt?” We can answer, “Great God, Thy justice and Thy love are both guarantees that Thou wilt not punish us for sin; for didst Thou not punish Christ for sin for us? How canst Thou, then, be just—how canst Thou be God at all, if Thou dost punish Christ the substitute, and then punish man himself afterwards?” Your only question is, “Did Christ die for me?” And the only answer we can give is—”This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ came into the world to save sinners.” Can you write your name down among the sinners—not among the complimentary sinners, but among those that feel it, bemoan it, lament it, seek mercy on account of it? Are you a sinner? That felt, that known, that professed, you are now invited to believe that Jesus Christ died for you, because you are a sinner; and you are bidden to cast yourself upon this great immovable rock, and find eternal security in the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
If you’ve never taken the time to read or listen to a sermon from Spurgeon, the “Prince of Preachers”, I can’t recommend this one highly enough! My preferred way to “hear” him is by reading a transcript while listening to someone preach the sermon. For this message, you can find the text here at the Spurgeon Archive, and can download or stream the audio here at SermonAudio.com. You can also hear it in this YouTube clip:
To learn more about how particular redemption works (when it is being taught well and not being misrepresented by those who don’t understand it), check out first J.I. Packer’s book Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (my review) for an easy introduction, and then John Murray’s Redemption: Accomplished and Applied (my review) to dig a little deeper.