That agreeably thereunto, Jesus Christ the Savior of the world, died for all men and for every man, so that he has obtained for them all, by his death on the cross, redemption and the forgiveness of sins; yet that no one actually enjoys this forgiveness of sins except the believer, according to the word of the Gospel of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” And in the First Epistle of John 2:2: “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”
- Article 2 of the Remonstrance by the Arminian Party in the Netherlands
The most prominent argument against the idea that the Bible teaches an atonement that was commissioned for the elect and accomplished fully and actually for them and is not committed for the unelect is the wording of the Bible itself. Some of the verses have already been cited. 1 John 2:2 identifies Christ as the propitiation for "our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." 1 John 4:14 states "the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world."
Does this settle the manner? In our way of using the English word, when we say "world," don't we mean everyone? What purpose does calling Jesus the Savior of the world serve?
What being "Savior of the World" means:
Let us look at an extended episode in which this phrase is used in John 4. Many know basics of the story of the woman at the well. It is important that we are told that this woman is a Samaritan (John 4:7). When Jesus speaks to her, two boundaries have been crossed. Most focus on the gender difference, which is important. But the bigger boundary is the racial boundary. The woman does not answer Jesus' words, but merely replies "How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?" as John supplies the observation: "(For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)" (John 4:9).
Differences are discussed such as where the Jews worship and where the Samaritans worship (John 4:20-24). The Samaritans have their hope for a Messiah, yet are separated from Jews and their worship. Jesus declares that such barriers are being brought down. When the woman believes and tells the village, it gives a hope to the people who say "we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world." (John 4:42)
Why would the people say such a thing? Is it because they believe in universal redemption of every single person? Certainly not. Is it because they believe in a universal atonement that is a propitiation for every person? Nope. They say Jesus is the "Savior of the world" because they now see that Jesus is not just the savior of the Jews. Jesus is from the Jews, but He is not only sent to be the Savior of that people, but all peoples in all the world. We can see that John's emphasis in using the word "world" is that John uses that in contrast to "Jew" or "Israel" or "Jewish." John uses "world" to communicate that Jesus is not a national deity, but the universal Savior of all peoples, not just the Jews.
What being "Savior of the World" certainly doesn't mean:
So to use the phrase "Savior of the World" as a case for saying Christ died for every single person is illegitimate. A meaning is explained in John 4. But we also know what "world" does not mean (i.e. every single person) by proper thinking through what someone is saying when they claim such a thing.
Let us think of what we are saying if we say “Jesus is the Savior of the world” as meaning “Jesus is the Savior of every single person.” This can mean 2 things:
1. You are a Universalist and believe no one suffers hell.
If we look at 1 John 2:2: “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” And we insert our gloss in, we see John combating provincialism. Christ's death is not merely for some in the race of the Jews, not merely for your particular group (Those in Asia Minor, Romans, Americans) but for members of every people group. However if we insert the Arminian gloss of “every single person” then universalism would be a logical conclusion of Christ being the propitiation of the sins of every single person. Propitiation means Christ was the object of God's infinite wrath against sin. How would God have wrath left over for anyone if Christ suffered propitiation for them? Indeed, logically if world means “every single person” all are saved. However, if we take the Bible at its word, then hell is a real place with a numbered population. For one who accepts the Scriptures as infallible and the true teaching of God, they cannot accept such a conclusion.
2. You believe Jesus is the Savior of those in hell.
People have said this. Rob Bell says there are forgiven people in hell. If a proponent of Unlimited Atonement is honest, they must say that Jesus is the Savior of those who are not saved. The problem with this of course is that this is nonsense.
We do not say that God is the savior of those who are not saved. If I talked about saving the life of a person that drowned and died, that is nonsense. If they were saved, they would not have drowned. If God is the savior of those who are not saved, salvation means nothing, for it has no essence, it communicates an action that has not taken place. When God told Israel that he was their savior from the Egyptians, this was not because he let them drown in the sea. Such a statement would call for no praise, but merely ridicule. If one is saved, they do not suffer hell.
Therefore, we really only have one true answer for how “Jesus is Avior of the world.” World must refer to all types of people. For:
* Jesus is not the Savior of every single person, for some suffer hell.
* Jesus is not the Savior of those who are not saved, for this statement would make no sense and is only deserving of ridicule for God, not praise.
* Thus, we must say: Jesus is the Savior of those from every people, nation and tongue.