When I was a child I was taught a simple little song that has stuck with me through the years. It began, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red, brown, yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight.” I sang the song with gusto and conviction, and its simple message impacted my life. It helped me deal with issues related to race when public schools were first being integrated. It gave me a larger view of the people of the world and their need for the gospel. The little song is certainly consistent with what we learned in the last chapter. But there are some who question whether God’s atoning sacrifice includes “all the children of the world.” Did Christ die only for a select group of children or did He indeed die for all of them?
The truth that God is unlimited should give us great confidence as we embrace our mission to reach the world with the gospel. Since His power is unlimited, we can be assured He provides unlimited resources and His unlimited presence, as we will see in future chapters. God’s unlimited love prompted Him to send His only begotten Son as a sacrifice for our sin. Fully understanding that “God so loved the world that He gave” (John 3:16) should compel everyone who has responded to His love to take the message of His redeeming love to the entire world.
The greatest missionary of all time, the apostle Paul, declared, “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (2 Cor. 5:14-15). The unlimited nature of God includes His provision for the salvation of all humanity.
In this chapter we will explore the extent of Christ’s atonement. I have friends and colleagues who teach that the atonement is limited to a special class of persons who were marked out for salvation before they were born. Is that true, or can we confidently witness to anyone and everyone with the assurance that the death of Christ is sufficient for all, exists for all, and is efficient for all who believe?
Unlimited atonement seems to be the obvious outworking of the unlimited love of God that is clearly manifest throughout the Bible. If God created everyone out of His great love, and He desires each one to have eternal fellowship with Him, then it follows that His atonement is sufficient for all. It is hard to reconcile the idea of a limited atonement with God whose love is unlimited.
Peter affirmed that God’s patience with sinful humanity was based on His desire that none perish: “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). In writing to his young protégé, Timothy, Paul declared, “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:3-4).
Ken Hemphill, Unlimited
Good Questions Have Groups Talking are available that go along with Ken Hemphill’s book, Unlimited. They are available on Amazon, as well as a part of Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service.