Wednesday, February 20, 2008

"Jesus Died For Someone's Sins But Not Mine"

"Jesus died for somebodys sins but not mine
Meltin in a pot of thieves
Wild card up my sleeve
Thick heart of stone
My sins my own
They belong to me, me"

Patti Smith "Gloria"

I appreciate the brutal honesty in Patti Smith's words here. I would, however, say that it is never correct for someone to say words like these, believer or not. The reason is that there is a high level of presumption which says that they know they will never become a Christian, never find forgiveness, and never recognize a need for their sins to be atoned for. Biblically speaking, no one may ever be presumptuous enough to declare that "my sins my own/they belong to me, me." Maybe. Maybe your sins are your own, and you will atone for them yourself. But maybe you will someday come to faith in Jesus and find that He has atoned for you already. Guard your words, Patti Smith, for you do not know what the future holds.

What a disservice we do to unbelievers when we (in the spirit of hypothetical universalism) tell them that Jesus died for their sins. These are people who do not want an atonement; they probably do not even believe they need an atonement. And this atonement actually does nothing for the indifferent pagan.

Nowhere in Scripture do we ever find someone being told to repent on the basis that Jesus has already provided atonement for them. Everywhere, we find that people are told to repent and believe in Jesus - essentially - on principle. Repent because eternal life is at stake. Repent and believe for the forgiveness of sins. But no one is told in the Bible, "Believe in Jesus because he died for your sins." Go ahead, look it up; try to find it just once.

I actually worked with a fellow named Chris* who once told me that he didn't need to become a Christian. I asked why, and he said, "Well all my life, I've been told by people that Jesus died for my sins. I thought about it one day and realized that if Jesus died for my sins, then I'm off the hook; whether I become a Christian or not." My response was stunned silence, because universalism makes way more sense than hypothetical universalism, and I realized this in that moment. (Actually, later, I told him that he had no reason to believe that Jesus died for his sins, and that those people who told him that were well meaning idiots who thought that "Jesus died for your sins" was the Ace up their sleeve. Sorry, hypothetical universalists.)

Think about it: Jesus provides atonement for you. What fear should you have of hell? On what basis will you be sent to hell if your sins are atoned for? On what basis?

*This is an absolutely true story.


  1. Thanks for your thoughts, I enjoy reading them.

    As it is related, do you have any thoughts on this?

  2. The typical "how-to" on evangelism, whether it is a class in a typical Bible College or the four spiritual laws or a Campus Crusade outreach, the dominant proclamation is: "Jesus died for your sins, so believe in Him." You are exactly right - Scripture never commands the evangelists to tell any unbeliever that Christ died for them - for very possibly He may not have. It is refreshing to read a consistent Reformed understanding of evangelism - this even lacks amongst most Reformed.

    The modern method of Evangelicalism is to provide our congregants and visitors, and even out-right strangers, assurance that Christ loves them and died for them. Frankly, this leads to Chris' response - a complacent nod and no commitment to Christ or changed life. Hmmmm, sounds like many churches today. We give unbelievers assurance of salvation without any of the demands.

    Perhaps we preach exactly what we shouldn't. Perhaps that 5th point of Calvinism is crucially important..... Just perhaps....

  3. Incidentally, the one point of Calvinism that many find the hardest to swallow (for some reason).


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