I was raised in the Protestant faith (Methodist/Alliance background). About a year ago I was listening to a Christian radio program of a well known pastor. In this teaching program he stated that Jesus did not die for everyone, but died for the elect only. Perhaps I am naive, but I had not heard that teaching before. I believe that God loves each of us and it is His will that all be saved, but that we must repent of our sins and accept the salvation offered through Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins. I have gone through a year of depression and turmoil over this trying to understand and get an answer as to the truth of this teaching. My mind and my previous understanding of scripture showed me a God of love and forgiveness to those who would believe. If God only saves the elect, what of the others? Are they born just to die and go to hell with no chance of ever being saved? Should we even bother to pray for the lost if God makes sure the elect are saved? We have a son in his 20’s who does not know the Lord and we have been praying for him daily for salvation. My agony is in thoughts which come to me now that I never had before, thoughts of doub, thinking he may never be saved or have a chance to be saved because he is not a chosen one. My previous perception of God has been clouded. Our pastor believes all have the opportunity to be saved–whosoever will may come. Could you please shed some light on this matter?
Hi Wendy. Of course I do not know the Pastor you refer to; but I think his error was from a misplacement of words. As someone who comes from a family of Preachers I can tell you that when they are overly excited or overly confident, they will misquote scripture and even incorrectly explain scriptures.
Most likely he just failed to bridge the gap between being saved and being ushered into the redeemed classification of “Elect.” Or maybe he just ate something bad the night before. You never know with us humans. (smiling)
Scripture is very clear. Romans 5:6-11. While we were yet sinners Christ died for us and GOD commanded His love towards us. GOD sees your son and waits patiently for him to choose life. No one can take that privilege from any of us.
@Wendy58 I am sorry to hear of the anxiety that you have been struggling with as a result of this teaching. When I was in college is when I struggled with this doctrine and it was a trying time. I remember wondering how God could love the kids I was speaking to about Jesus if they were not elect.
But today I have perfect peace because I know that my King Jesus, the judge of all the earth, will do what is right and good and true. The first thing you need to understand is that this doctrine is debatable - it is not a central doctrine. Many intelligent Christians throughout history have been on both sides of the debate.
Second, we need to look at Scripture and realize, as it says in Acts, that from the Old Testament to the New Testament God desires that all people know Him. In fact, God has placed the nations within their boundaries for that very purpose!
Acts 17:26-27 - From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.
Ezekiel 18:21-23 - “But if a wicked person turns away from all the sins they have committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, that person will surely live; they will not die. 22 None of the offenses they have committed will be remembered against them. Because of the righteous things they have done, they will live. 23 Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?
I Timothy 2:3-4 - This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
Here are a few threads that are directly relevant to your question. In the first one, I help you understand the different levels of doctrine and provide links to threads with more information on the free will debate if you want to learn more. The second thread I think is helpful because it is a reminder that God is good and His judgments fair and just and beautiful.
If you have any additional questions please ask. I understand what it is like to love someone and also question whether they even have the ability to reach out to God. And I am confident to say that while there is a debate, I believe wholeheartedly from Scripture that God’s intentions to all people are good. The Spirit of our mighty and gracious Lord Jesus grant you peace as you grow in all truth.
This is a very interesting doctrinal debate that we are looking at in our theology group, based around a book “3 views on the extent of the atonement”.
My take on it is that you can hold two simultaneous views of God foreknowing the elect and Jesus dying for everyone.
This may seem contradictory but we are trying to analyse a reality outside of time, which to us is virtually impossible- at least for me!
Id agree with the comments that we can have peace that “he will judge the world in righteousness” through Jesus.
I have a daughter and I can relate to what you shared here, including your deep desire for your son to be saved. And I’m sorry to hear about the suffering this has brought. I pray for my daughter’s salvation regularly and desire nothing more for her than her salvation. I think your feelings are natural and I think you’re right to long for this as you do since it involves something of such significance with someone whom you love so much. It seems like you’re looking for some clarity on what this doctrine states so you can better judge it for yourself. As a father who affirms and treasures this doctrine you’ve raised, maybe I can share a little that may shed some light on this often misunderstood doctrine and hopefully provide some clarity and comfort in the process.
In what you originally shared, you said, “We have a son in his 20’s who does not know the Lord and we have been praying for him daily for salvation. My agony is in thoughts which come to me now that I never had before, thoughts of doubt, thinking he may never be saved or have a chance to be saved because he is not a chosen one. … Our pastor believes all have the opportunity to be saved–whosoever will may come.”
I thought it might be helpful to mention that the doctrine you heard preached is called the doctrine of actual atonement and, as traditionally held, it in no way diminishes the genuineness of human choices nor the responsibility of the sinner to respond to the gospel nor the urgency of evangelism nor the truth that salvation is available to all who would believe nor the power and importance of prayer.
You also shared, “I believe that God loves each of us and it is His will that all be saved, but that we must repent of our sins and accept the salvation offered through Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins.”
The doctrine of actual atonement, as traditionally held, affirms everything you shared here that you believe. In a nutshell (that won’t come close to doing justice to the depth and breadth of this subject here), this doctrine says that when Jesus died on the cross, he actually atoned for the sins of particular human beings. The use of the word “actual” here is an alternative to the idea that Jesus’ atonement on the cross was potential, and not efficacious. In other words, when he suffered God’s wrath on the cross he actually paid the full price for particular sinners, and God’s wrath was actually and completely satisfied for them, such that there is no punishment left for the sinner for whom Christ died to suffer - it is finished.
Taking this a step further, if everyone is not saved (as probably all of us here in this thread believe), and if Jesus paid the full price for everyone’s sins at the cross, the challenging questions this doctrine raises then become, What are those in hell paying for if Jesus truly and actually paid it all? If God’s wrath was completely satisfied (spent, taken away, propitiated) for every human being, why then does anyone go to hell and with what wrath is God punishing them? Does this leave us with an unjust God who engages in a sort of double jeopardy?
Hopefully, Wendy, this at least gives you a little bit better idea of what this doctrine of actual atonement affirms, again, so you can better judge for yourself. Sean did a very good job of highlighting the goodness, trustworthiness, love, and justice of God. Genesis 18:25 says “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” And I think, at the end of the day, that’s where our peace, our joy, our strength comes from - resting in the hands of the righteous God who loves us and whom we can always trust will do what is right. From one parent to another, I’d just like to encourage you that your prayers matter, your conversations with your son matter, and God loves your son and wills for him to be saved. I hope this helps some.
Thank you for taking the time to respond to my question and for your kind, well written reply. I will be reading it and the others carefullly over the coming weeks to try to understand this doctrine and will continue to pray for our son to know the Lord as well as others in my life. Thank you again and God bless you and your family.
hank you for responding to my question. I am still sorting through things in my mind and searching scriptures.
@Wendy58 Understandable - may the Lord grant you clarity and discernment as you search the Scriptures.
I know how important this is for you. I have grandchildren that I pray for daily that God will speak to their hearts over the roar of this world. Jesus is sufficient to save all how who come to him. As always the connect community has give great encouragement I would like to add somethings that have helped me get a better handle on a very serious subject.
- I think first and foremost remember this is a Jewish story about God and his people and his plan for them and his creation. It is a story that has been retold around a 16th century European worldview.
- This was not an issue in the 1st century church. No one was worried about being predestine, for that matter, no one was worried about being saved, at least not in the same way as we think about it today.
- If you want a better understanding of this subject, you will need go back in time not forward. You need to remember there was not a Bible as we know it and there was no New Testament at all, just the what we would call the scripture that eventually would become the Old Testament. You will also need to go back to the intertestamental years to the Jewish literature and writings to understand the terms “elect”, “covenant”, “righteousness”, “faithfulness” and what it meant to the devote Jew of the that day, a zealot (think Phineas grandson of Aaron).
- Paul was a zealot. He believed in monotheism (one God), election (one people of God) and eschatology (one future for God’s world). This was the theology of Paul, a theology that was being reconciling with what he believed to be true about the God of Israel, his “elect” and his promise to rescue his creation as recorded in Torah, the Writing, the Prophets and History. All that Paul believed was being challenged by the resurrected Jesus, Messiah. This was not an either/or choice for Paul it was both, God is true, scripture is true, and Jesus is Messiah, but the order was wrong or the end was now. Remember it took Paul at least 14 years to think this through maybe even 17 but it did not happen overnight. Have you ever wondered why God chose a Pharisee to preach grace? Because it’s always been Grace.
- Think of election as God not choosing a people but choosing a people for a purpose. As a people with a purpose Israel was to live their lives in such a fashion as to cause its neighbors to be drawn to their way of life both in how they lived with each other and how they lived with their neighbors and most importantly how they worshiped their God: There are a lot of verses in the Bible that would support this view. I like this one.
20 Thus says Yahweh of hosts: ‘It will happen again that nations and the inhabitants of many cities will come. 21 And the inhabitants of one city will go to another city, saying, “Let us go immediately to entreat ⌊ the favor of ⌋ Yahweh, to seek Yahweh of hosts—I also will go!” 22 And many peoples and powerful nations will come to seek Yahweh of hosts in Jerusalem, and to entreat ⌊ the favor of ⌋ Yahweh.’ 23 Thus says Yahweh of hosts: ‘In those days ten men from ⌊ the nations of every language ⌋ will take hold of the hem of a Judean man, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you!” ’ ” (Zec 8:20–23)
There are many other verses like it that would confirm that God has from the beginning intended to extend the gift of grace to all who would believe and receive. The greatness of the Giver and the great price of the Gift all expressed publicly as endless gratitude to the Giver.
Hope this helps and gives you more to think on.