A brief moment from our Sunday School class yesterday jogged my memory on an argument presented by the great Puritan John Owen in "The Death of Death in the Death of Christ". For reasons known only to my mathematical inclinations and the Lord, I quickly jotted down a logic table. For fun, here it is:
# of sins # of people
for which for whom
Christ died Christ died The Result
NONE NONE DOOM
NONE SOME DOOM
NONE ALL DOOM
SOME NONE DOOM
SOME SOME DOOM
SOME ALL DOOM
ALL NONE DOOM
ALL SOME REDEMPTION
ALL ALL UNIVERSALISM
The first seven possibilities leave all people in some of their sins. Hence, all that awaits the sinner in those cases is judgment and doom. In fact, to say Christ died for all sins of no one makes no sense at all. His death was completely meaningless.
That leaves the last two possibilities. Most Christians argue for the last position, namely, that Christ died for each and every sin of each and every person. However, to accept the position that Christ died for all sins of all men (general atonement) must result in universalism. One cannot argue that Christ paid the debt for all sins but some do not accept that payment. To not accept is to not trust God, to not believe in God, to not have faith in God which is the same as disobeying God, i.e., SIN (hence, a sin not covered by the blood).
This leaves the only viable outcome: Christ died for each and every sin of SOME people. This doctrine is known as Particular Redemption (sometimes called Limited Atonement). Yet, in particular redemption, Christ fully accomplished the redemption for EVERY sin of EVERY person given to Him by His Father.
Now, some will argue, how does one handle the Biblical passages which appear to teach that Christ died for everyone? Well, the "All" Biblical texts may be reconciled with the "Some" Biblical passages by their context. However, the opposite is not true. You can't reconcile the "Some" passages with the "All" passages. A rough illustration:
Some cats are yellow. All cats (within the yellow group) are yellow.
All cats are yellow. Some cats (all within the yellow group) are yellow. But this implies the yellow group is not the only group. They are SOME among other colors of cats.
Some sinners are saved. All sinners (within the elect group) are saved.
All sinners are saved. Some sinners (all within the elect group) are saved. While this is true, it implies there is a non-elect group which means the death of Christ was particular after all.
The wonderful news of particular redemption is the certainty of the salvation of those whom the Father has chosen, the Son has died, and the Spirit has quickened! God has accomplished it all for no reason other than His mercy and His grace!
"According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace." (Ephesians 1:4-7)