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Romans 5:15

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.

– Romans 5:15

Those who hold to limited atonement or, as many like to use today, definite atonement, believe that Christ died only for the elect.  When confronted with the many passages of Scripture such as John 1:29; 3:16; 4:42; 12:32; Romans 11:32; 1 Timothy 2:4; 4:10; Hebrews 2:9; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 John 2:2 or 1 John 4:14, not to mention the overwhelming number of passages that speak of a universal call to repentance (Isaiah 55:1; Revelation 22:17 just to name two out of many), many will resort to saying that Jesus came to save many but not all (Mark 10:45).  They will try to point out that the word “world” doesn’t mean “the whole world” but rather “the elect” or “all types of people.”  This is rather ridiculous given that the context must determine the word usage.  For instance, Luke 2:1 (not to mention it is a different Greek term than the norm word kosmos) is clear that the whole world is limited.  We see the hyperbole in John 12:19 and its obvious from the context that “world” doesn’t mean “the whole world” in this sense.  That is a natural reading of the text.

Not so with many other passages of Scripture.  Let’s take 1 John 2:2 for instance.  Here we read, “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (NKJV).  Now let’s substitute “whole world” with “all types of people.”  Does it work?  It doesn’t even make sense.  He is the propitiation for our sins and not for ours only but also for “all types of people.”  That is rather awkward at best.  It is clear that “whole world” here means “whole world.”  As Dr. Walter Martin wrote,

“John the Apostle tells us that Christ gave His life as a propitiation for our sin (i.e., the elect), though not for ours only but for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2)….[People] cannot evade John’s usage of ‘whole’ (Greek: holos). In the same context the apostle quite cogently points out that ‘the whole (holos) world lies in wickedness’ or, more properly, ‘in the lap of the wicked one’ (1 John 5:19, literal translation). If we assume that ‘whole’ applies only to the chosen or elect of God, then the ‘whole world does not ‘lie in the lap of the wicked one.’ This, of course, all reject.”

In the above passage in Romans 5:15 it is easy to demonstrate that “many” means “all” in context.  No Calvinist denies that “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23) in Adam (Romans 5:12).  Therefore if the sin of Adam brought condemnation to all then “many” in the beginning of Romans 5:15 means “all” otherwise you have to reject universal depravity.  Thus if the “many” of Romans 5:15 means “all” then why limit the usage of “many” to not “all” at the end of Romans 5:15?  It is clear that “all” sinned (Romans 3:10) and its equally clear that Jesus died for all (Romans 5:18).  It is clear that Adam’s sin brought condemnation to all.  Jesus’ work of propitiation was for all that all can be saved in Him.  Jesus truly is the propitiation for our sins and for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2)!  Praise God for that truth!

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Written by The Seeking Disciple

11/28/2012 at 11:24 AM

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