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The purpose of the atoning work of the Son of God.
There are only four logical possibilities for the question: ‘For whom did Christ die?’
They are as follows:
1- Christ died for all the sins of all men.
2- Christ died for all the sins of some men.
3- Christ died for some sins of all men.
4- Christ died for some sins of some men.
We can cast aside answers three and four because, if they were true, salvation would be impossible.
So, we’re left with options one and two.
The first stance is that of the Universalists, namely, that Christ died for all the sins of all men. This means that everyone sooner or later will end up in glory. Since Christ has paid the price for the sins of all men, no one can be lost eternally as God would be unjust to seek payment for the same sins twice.
Roman Catholics also embrace this first perspective but in a nuanced manner. In opposition to the Universalists, Catholics believe that all men can only be saved if they put their faith in Jesus Christ.
But the question that one must ask a Roman is the following: Is the lack of faith a sin? Is unbelief sin?
Obviously unbelief is sin –the biggest sin of all as Luther thought- because it condemns us. Therefore, if Christ didn’t die for our sin of unbelief, a coherent Catholic must accept the third answer. And, as we’ve already made plain, option three is an anti-Gospel because it makes salvation impossible!
It’s for this very reason that the Vatican appeals to concepts such as penitence, the intercession of deceased saints and virgins and the doctrine of Purgatory so that believers can be fully righteous before God.
The conviction of classic Protestantism or the Reformed faith has always been the second explanation, that is, Christ has died for all the sins of some people.
Who are those blessed people? The sheep, the chosen ones, the church, the people of God! Christ paid for their sin of unbelief purchasing their faith and repentance on the cross so that they could be saved forever.
A true Protestant, then, can rest entirely upon the perfect righteousness of Christ to be in peace with God. By no means does the believer have to have to appease the wrath of God by means of his own merit. Christ paid it all.
This second perspective, thanks to the Lord, offers every believer full security of salvation.
As Protestant preachers and believers, we would do well to recover the forgotten doctrine regarding the priesthood of Christ so that He is once again extolled and glorified in the evangelical world and His people comforted by Christ’s matchless and all-sufficient work of atonement.