As an internal debate within the Church there has been a new discussion since the rise of Arminius in the 16th Century who challenged the view held in the Church since the time of Augustine that Christ had died solely for the Church as God’s special people. Arminius and his followers would argue that in a special way Christ has died for the people of the world with equality to the people within the Church. Augustine would present his case from the writings of the Apostle Paul that God had chosen His people in eternity past and that in the Church Era these people chosen by God became His followers in the Church solely through His election. Arminius would argue that to limit the work of Christ on the cross to merely those in the Church would be to diminish the value of the cross, yet Augustinians have never held that the sacrifice of the Infinite Son of God could ever be diminished in value as an expression of the love and the sacrifice of God. While many of the followers of Arminius do not believe in the Universalist heresy, many of the arguments of Arminius have certainly been adopted by the Universalists which will show the danger of the argument in valuing the views of rationalism over the revealed truth of Scripture.
Because of the extreme nature of the rebellion against God, all that Christ did would have been required to save just one sinner. But because the Son of God is God Himself there is no limit to the value of His sacrifice and so if all the people in the world were to turn to Christ there would be no lacking in the sacrifice of Christ to be able to cover all of the sinners of all time. Yet the Scriptures clearly teach that the sacrifice of Christ on the cross is beneficial only to those who accept the sacrifice of Christ and so at no point should we take our speculation beyond what the Scriptures teach. The mission of Christ in the Earth was to gather to Himself a bride. Christ clearly taught that those who did not come to Him did not belong to Him and that without abiding in Him we would be cut off from Him forever. God guaranteed the success of the mission of the Son through the election of the saints so that the Holy Spirit would gather unto Christ a flock and this flock is guaranteed.
In the natural world we can understand that if a person is kidnapped, the people who are supposed to pay the ransom will first wait to receive a proof of life and a guarantee that the person they are redeeming will be released. In the financial world, if a person is going to pay a creditor there is first going to be a bill of sale with a reference point so that there will be a legal guarantee that when the money is sent in that the debt will be actually covered. People do not send in money to random crediting agencies on the vague hope that at some point, at some time, their credit card will be repaid. In the same way when Christ came to die on the cross He did not come with the vague hope that people would respond to His death and resurrection, but He came with the promise of God that He could say upon His death that gathering the Church to Himself was accomplished before a single person even prayed the Sinner’s Prayer because the election of God guarantees that the Church will be built.
Looking back to the beginning of the problem we must remember that the sin of Adam guaranteed that sin would be passed on to his children. It forms the basis for our condemnation in the same way that what Christ did on the cross forms the basis of the salvation of those of us who would accept that gift by faith through the belief that comes to us through election, but what about the passages of Scripture which talk about Christ dying for all men and for the sins of the whole world? There is a sense in which Christ did die in an effectual way for the sins of the whole world so that all men can come to God if they so chose, but out of their free will they have chosen to prefer their rebellion against God. In another sense, Christ did die for the whole world in that Christ is the head and the judge of the whole world and that His death on the cross allowed Him to take the keys to Hell so that His dominion extends over all mankind with the power to destroy forever in Hell and the power to release those who accept His ransom on the cross. Further, looking at the Law of Moses and we can see that the penalty of sin is death and that Christ buys not only eternal life for those who accept Him now, but that He also buys for the world time for us to take time to be holy and to come to that initial point of repentance. In saying that Jesus died for the sins of all mankind, it is not in actually saying that He is the redeemer of all mankind but that there is in reality no division in the love of God as there was in the Old Covenant. The New Testament promises is not just for Americans, it’s not just for English, it’s not just for whites, the love of Christ was extended beyond just the Jewish race and can now be extended to all the peoples of the earth, i.e. for all mankind. The position of Arminius is by necessity only looking at some of the facts of the case and is not taking into account all of the points of Scripture.