July 15, 2005

"died" and "for" distinctions

NKJ 1 Corinthians 2:2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Since I don't think the truths of the cross can be repeated enough, I'll post this here.

One person (a strict particularist) asked (the dualists) on a discussion board:

"So then, He died for everyone?"

My reply:

A confusion can occur in at least two areas. It touches on the terms "died" and "for." "For" refers to divine intentionality and design. If one denies different senses of God's will (secret and revealed), then it is no wonder that the conclusion is either strict particularism or Arminianism. The strict particularist says that Christ died "for" the elect alone, while the Arminian says that Christ died "for" everyone with the same intent, i.e. equally for all. The dualists (and Calvin I would argue), on the other hand, maintain that both of these positions are mistaken, and they fail to account for actual volitional complexity within God, and for all the scriptural data. The strict particularists and the Arminians are actually similar. They both think that God can have only one equal and singular intent in Christ's death. Anything else does not "make sense" to them. It's deemed "illogical" and "contradictory" because they fail to understand the Law of Non-Contradiction and the distinction between senses.

There is also a confusion regarding the term "died." Christ's death, merely by itself, does not save any man. The death he died is only applied to any individual through the instrumentality of faith, i.e. it does not ipso facto liberate as Charles Hodge points out. There is a sense in which the death is first provisional and then it comes to have the sense of possession when one believes. So then, as a believer, Christ "died" for me in a different sense (i.e. in the possessed/efficacious sense) than in the merely universal (or provisional) sense with regard to those still in unbelief. If we distinguish between the provisional and possessed senses of "died," then there is no problem saying that Christ "died" for everyone.

It is only when we think of Christ's death as actually saving when he died (due to commercialistic/pecuniary debt "payment" categories being pushed beyond the analogical or metaphorical into the literal) that the universal sense becomes unthinkable. If the death is, by itself, efficacious for those it was decretally designed for, then it follows that they were saved when he died, i.e. they are justified prior to faith. This is a biblically absurd conclusion. Faith logically preceeds justification in the biblical ordo salutis (Rom. 5:1), and the elect really abide under the wrath of God (Eph. 2:3) prior to faith because the merits of Christ's death are not yet imputed to them. The death is merely provisional for them prior to faith.

I hope the distinctions above help some to see the ambiguity in the senses of "died" and "for" in the question.

Grace to you,

"That reprobate and deplorably wicked men do not receive it, is not through any defect in the grace of God, nor is it just, that, on account of of the children of perdition, it should lose the glory and title of universal redemption, since it is prepared for all, and all are called to it." Wolfgang Musculus Common Places, p. 151.

"Not willing that any should perish. So wonderful is his love towards mankind, that he would have them all to be saved, and is of his own self prepared to bestow salvation on the lost." John Calvin's comments on 2 Peter 3:9

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