For Whom Did Christ Die?

For Whom Did Christ Die? 

R.B. Kuiper of Westminster Seminary offers some great Biblical insights in his book “For Whom did Christ Die.”  I will try and summarize some of his major points.  He notes that it can be shown “w/o the slightest difficulty that certain benefits of the atonement, other than salvation of individuals are universal.”  Later he adds, “Certain benefits of the atonement accrue to men generally, including the non-elect.”  In the words of Charles Hodge, “There is a sense, therefore, in which He died for all, and there is a sense in which he died for the elect only.”  Kuiper adds, “The particular design of the atonement and its universal design in no way contradict each other.”


The Canons of Dort and John Owen agree that the sacrifice of Christ was of infinite value and worth.  Berkhof mentions that that “the schoolmen were accustomed to saying that Christ died sufficiently for all men, but efficaciously for the elect.” Kuiper notes that this language was adopted by some orthodox theologians and even by Calvin.  After this subject came under greater scrutiny Kuiper said that Reformed theologians preferred to say “that the death of Christ viewed objectively and apart from His design and purpose, was inherently sufficient for all, though efficacious only for the elect.”


Dr. Kuiper than goes onto to show how common grace is one of the benefits of the atonement (Matt. 5:43-48).  Let’s not forget that “No amount of common grace equals so much as a grain of saving grace.”  In the words of Louis Berkhof, “Reformed theologians generally hesitate to say that Christ by His atoning blood merited these blessings for the impenitent and reprobate.  At the same time they do believe that important natural benefits accrue to the whole human race from the death of Christ, and that these in these benefits the unbelieving, the impenitent, and the reprobate also share.”  I have a hard time understanding the distinction that is made here but perhaps some of you may?  In the words of Robert Candlish, “The blessings of common grace, although resulting only indirectly from the atonement, were surely designed by God to result from the atonement.”


Kuiper taught that the greatest blessing that flows out of the stream of common grace is sincere offer of salvation to all men (Mt. 23:37; Ezk. 3:19).  Kuiper sees this offer an obvious “fruit of the atonement.”  This is a paradox that Kuiper is willing to live with.  The intent of the atonement is clearly limited but the sincere offer of salvation is to all people and is “grounded in that same atonement.”  In quoting John Murray’s, The Free offer of the Gospel he provides a good summary of the difficult texts of Scripture found in 2 Peter 3:9 and Ezekiel 18:23, “We found that God reveals himself as not taking pleasure in or desiring the death of those who die but rather as taking pleasure in or desiring the repentance and life of the wicked.  This will of God to repentance and salvation is universalized and reveals to us, therefore, that there is in God a benevolent loving-kindness towards the repentance and salvation of even those who he has not decreed to save.  This pleasure, will, desire is expressed in the universal call to repentance.”

2 responses to this post.

  1. I doubt Phil Johnson is reading any of my posts on the atonement but he did offer two blogs today and yesterday on this very topic: the atonement and propitiation.

    Check them out at


  2. Posted by Juan Z on April 24, 2007 at 12:07 am

    One thing I have been wondering about the atonement and the elect is- What does free will fit intot the picture?

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