“This is currently the burning question in Southern Baptist life: ‘For whose sins did Jesus die?’”
Dr. Jerry Vines — organizer of the John 3.16 Conference held at North Metro First Baptist Church March 21-22 – was the conference’s initial plenary speaker.
“I want to attempt to answer the question biblically.… I want to know — what does the Bible say? To be sure I am interested in what Christian history has to say. I want to know what theologians have to say. But, ultimately, what does our inerrant Bible say? For Bible believing people, this will settle the matter. Jesus said, ‘Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me.’(John 5:39).”
Vines said the question was “no small, minor, or secondary question,” and noted it is answered in two prominent ways: 1) Jesus died for the sins of the elect only (limited atonement or particular redemption); or, 2) Jesus died for the sins of all humanity (universal atonement).
“The correct answer to this question is crucial,” Vines said. “The answer impacts missions and evangelism, our church life, our preaching and how we live our life.”
Examining 1 Cor. 15:1-8 through an exegetical lens, Vines tackled the question of the availability of the gift of Christ’s sacrifice to all. He emphasized the importance of humility and faith in the discussion. He answered the question in three ways from scripture, explaining that the answer is only found in God’s love and His gift, working together as one.
Vines answered his initial question from three perspectives, the first of which included this statement: “Christ died for my sins individually.” Citing Galatians 2:20, Vines explained that the idea of love in this passage “gives not on the basis of the worth of the one to whom it is given but on the basis of the character of the one who gives.”
He described the individual, based on Scripture, as a sinner, ungodly and unjust. This affirms that God died for man while he was still dead in his sin.
Ephesians 5:25 provided Vines’ second approach in that “Christ died for the sins of the Church especially” and that God loves the Church with an eternal love. Vines defined the Church as Christ’s flock, His people, His nation, and His friends.
Vines also made an “interesting observation: Nowhere does [the Bible] say Christ died ONLY for the elect. To be sure, He did die for the elect: “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.” Rom. 8:32-33.
Vines said the Bible never isolates the elect, Christ’s sheep, His people or nation or His friends and says He died “ONLY for them.”
“It is a logical fallacy to say that, when Scripture says Christ died for me or for his church, his flock or his sheep, his people or nation or his friends that it means he died ONLY for me and them and DID NOT die for all. For me to say I love Dr. Allen and Dr. Cox does not mean I love only them and not Dr. Caner and Dr. Gaines,” said Vines, adding, “God’s salvation is sufficient for all men. It is efficient for all who believe.”
In this statement, Vines paved the way for the third and final answer to the question as found in John 3:16: “Jesus died for the world’s sins universally.”
“For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Jesus Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all,” said Vines, citing Rom. 5:15.
Vines cited this among other passages as those which he believes settle the question. Noting the Greek word used for “all” is pas, Vines intimated sincere curiosity as to how it is that the some persons can cite Rom. 3.23, which states that “all (pas) have sinned” but can ignore “pas” in Rom. 5.15, or reinterpret it as meaning the elect.
Vines believes the word all is neither limited nor exclusive, but includes the entirety of mankind, making salvation available to each and every person on the planet.
Dealing with John 3.16, Vines noted how some will translate “cosmos” as having some connection to “eklektos,” meaning, for some, that Jesus didn’t die for the sins of the world, but he died for the world of the “elect.”
Vines rejected that out-of-hand “because that’s not what the verse says.”
He defined the word world in John 3:16 as including every member of the race of humanity.
Vines said that Isaiah 53:6 teaches “the same truth in a most captivating way: “ALL we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us ALL.”
The Hebrew word in that verse means “all, every, the whole,” Vines said. “In the Greek Septuagint the word is the same as the one translated ‘all’ in John 3:16. The verse teaches that ‘all’ without exception, are sinners. And that upon Christ was laid the iniquity of ‘all,’ without exception.
The evangelist D.L. Moody was departing from a citywide campaign, Vines said. “As the train was pulling away, a man came running to Moody, asking how he might be saved. Moody hastily quoted Isaiah 53:6, then shouted, ‘Go in at the first ALL, come out at the last ALL.’”