Who did he die for?

Pastor Jeff Struecker

What I’m trying to do for you today is teach you theology, and we’re going to tackle another big theological topic. Last week we began talking about the atonement, and the word atonement describes Jesus’ death on the cross. What happened there? What did Jesus really atone for? That’s why we get the word atonement by dying on the cross. 

The Bible describes what happened on the cross and uses language in John chapter one like John the baptist uses when the Lamb of God becomes the Sacrificial Lamb for the world. In fact, Jesus says in John chapter three that God sent His Son into the world so that He would rescue the world and that the world would not have to perish but would be able to have everlasting life. The first time John the Baptist sees Jesus in public, he tells his disciples who they’re looking at. Would you commit that one verse to memory? Because it helps you focus on who Jesus is all week long. 

Memory Verse

Now, last week, I told you, we started to ask how he did this. What really happened on the cross? And today, I want to ask a second question. When John the Baptist says the world, what does he mean when Jesus says that God sent His Son to save the world and that the world would be able to be saved? 

Well, you can probably imagine theologians have been arguing about this, they’ve been criticizing each other for centuries, and I want to summarize this five major ideas here of the extent of the atonement. 


The universal word says Jesus’s death on the cross undid sin for everybody.  

General Atonement

This next view states that Jesus’s death provided the sacrifice, the payment necessary for the world. Now in the general atonement idea, it would say yes, anybody can be a Christian, but not everybody will be atoned for, and not everybody will come to God in faith. 

 Limited Atonement

This view is different from the other two. It is sometimes referred to as particular atonement, and it says the word world that we’re talking about refers to only those people who will confess faith repent of their sins, and turn to Jesus in their lifetime. Those are the ones that have been paid for by the blood of Christ. It says that God selected those people, and because He selected them, they will run to Him in faith and be born again. But everybody else outside of that view is not going to come to him in faith and, therefore, not part of that word world

Hypothetical Universalism

Hypothetical universalism is a little bit of both here; Jesus’s death on the cross is for everybody, but it’s only effective for the people that come to him in faith. And so it holds a little bit to both the general and the limited view of atonement.


This was named after a French guy who came up with this idea, two things are happening simultaneously, and these two things represent what was going on at the cross. God is both just and punishing sin. Those that come to faith in Him will be atoned. 

You see, what you believe about heaven, and what you think about the afterlife will heavily influence who you believe is going to be there. And I’m absolutely convinced of this; there’s going to be many people in heaven that you don’t expect to be there, and they’re actually going to be there. And a lot of people here on earth that you expect to be in heaven are probably not going to be there. If you measure heaven by who does good and who does bad, you’re going to be really surprised by who is there and who’s not there.  So I’m going to put two questions that are worded specifically to cause you to think for just a second because when you think about both of these questions together, it does start to get at who Jesus died for and where you fit in this equation. So here are the two questions:


And that answer will point you right back to the extent of the atonement. You see how it’s no longer just an academic conversation between a bunch of theologians. I want you to pray about this, I want you to think about it, and then I want you to answer this for yourself or your family.