Gospel Dialogue, CFP, Watchman Nee
The Bible declares that the Lord Jesus died for all. If a person does not believe in the Lord Jesus, will he perish?
“The love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that one died for all, therefore all died” (2 Cor. 5.14). The “one” here is Christ. The “all” whom He died for are all men. Now it may appear from this, therefore, that even though a person does not believe in the Lord Jesus, he should not die. Yet in John we read that “he that believeth not hath been judged already, because he hath not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God” (3.18). What can be said about the righteousness of God and His way of operation? Let us look into this matter:
“The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20.28). “Who gave himself a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2.6). What is the difference between “many” and “all”? The “many” in the first passage includes all who believe, and the Lord Jesus has died for all the many who believe in Him. The “all” in the second passage refers to all men, for whom the Lord Jesus has prepared a ransom. The “for” in Matthew carries in it the idea of substituting, while the “for” in 1 Timothy conveys the idea of providing. With respect to the believers, the Lord Jesus has died to substitute His death for their death as well as to provide for them a ransom. With respect to sinners, however, His death has provided for them a ransom, though it does not serve to substitute for their death. Hence the scope of substitution before God is limited.
The words “one died for all” in 2 Corinthians 5.14 means to say that one had died on behalf of all. It means that the death of the Lord Jesus has provided sufficiently for the use of all men. So far as provision is concerned the death of the Lord Jesus is for all men so that all may have the opportunity to be saved. Only for the believers would the word “substitute” be used.
“He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world” (1 John 2.2). Christ is the propitiation for the unbelievers as well as for the believers. But again the meaning here is not substitution, but provision. The salvation of God has already been prepared. When you receive it you then will be reckoned by God as being one among the “many”. Christ died on behalf of all men, since His death has made provision for all men; but it cannot be taken to mean a substitution in death for all men. If anyone does not believe, he will perish. This is man’s responsibility before God.*
* "I may observe once for all, that in the usage of these two words, as applied to our redemption by Christ, all is the objective, many the subjective designation of those for whom Christ died.” Henry Alford, The Greek Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1968), Vol. I, p. 206.—Translator