All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on Him [Christ] the iniquity of us all.
A common question raised by the Calvinist is: If Christ died for all men then how come some men will end up in hell? Shouldn’t the fact that Christ died for all men mean that all men are saved?
My response to the Calvinist is: No!
Ultimately, to be saved means to attain a righteousness that is acceptable to God. The book of Romans, in the 10th chapter outlines only two such modes of righteousness:
(1) righteousness that comes by the law
– Righteousness by the law is a dead end since no one has ever kept the law without error (Ezekiel 33:13).
(2) righteousness which is by faith.
– The only way anyone attains to righteousness which is by faith is through belief in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross; this is what is meant by obeying the gospel (Romans 10:8-9).
There is no third mode of righteousness which comes by someone paying for our sins. Therefore, the fact that Christ paid for everyone’s sins doesn’t automatically make anyone righteous. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross brought reconciliation to all and empowers God’s offer of righteousness by faith (2 Corinthians 5:19-21). Christ’s blood is truly a propitiation for our sins but only through faith (Romans 3:24-25); and as such is the case, faith is indispensable. Again, no where in the bible will you find the declaration that Christ’s death alone makes a person righteous. Of course, without Christ’s sacrifice no one has a righteousness by which to approach God since no valid righteousness would exist (i.e. Isaiah 64:6 says that our own righteousness is worthless). Christ’s righteousness that He attained for us by His sacrifice on the cross becomes efficacious for a person IF AND ONLY IF they obey the Gospel. Incidentally, it is important for the reader to understand that obeying the gospel is not works (See Elect according to the Foreknowledge of God for more information).
This is the reason why the courtroom analogy that so many Calvinists use does not accurate describe our predicament. In this analogy, God pays the penalty that He has levied against you and you thus get to walk out of the courtroom a free man. The argument then is that if Christ has done this for all persons then how come some people go to Hell? However, in Christianity, it doesn’t quite work that way. NO ONE walks out of the courtroom a free man until they have met the Judge’s requirements (i.e. obeying the Gospel) that is why the courtroom analogy is flawed. The condemnation is not that sinners cannot pay the sin penalty and must consequently go to Hell; if this were the case, then Christ sacrifice for the sins of the world WOULD suffice in securing salvation for all. Instead, the condemnation is that sinners refuse to obey the Gospel; Light has come into the world but the guilty defendant instead choose to follow darkness & unrighteousness. The unrepentant sinner is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (John 3:18-19). Since in Acts 17:30 God requires all men everywhere to repent this means that all must obey the gospel in order to leave the courtroom in freedom. If you decide not to obey the gospel how does the fact that Christ died for your sins help you leave the courtroom? It doesn’t. Therefore, people don’t go to Hell because Christ did not die for them; ultimately, they go to Hell because they have disobeyed the Gospel (Romans 2:7-8). This is why in 1 Peter 4:17, Peter says:
For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?
Notice that Peter does not say: what will be the end of those for Whom Christ did not die? Again, Christ’s sacrifice provides a righteousness that is acceptable to God but this righteousness is only credited to you if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead. This is how Abraham was declared righteous in Romans 4:3 and this is how we can be declared righteous. There is no other way.
Therefore, righteousness which is by faith, is available to everyone in the world because Christ paid for the sins of everyone in the world; hence, if Christ did not pay for the sins of the whole world, then it follows that righteousness which is by faith (i.e. the command to obey the gospel) is not available to all since it does not pertain to those for whose sins Christ did not die. This conclusion is obviously unacceptable since it presents an irrational God who is angry (2 Thessalonians 1:8) at those who have disobeyed a rule that does not pertain to them.
It does not make logical sense to punish unbelievers for not believing especially if the command to believe was never directed at them. However, since we do know that the command to believe IS directed at unbelievers (Acts 17:30), then it follows that Christ must have died for them as well.