My dear friend, this is an excellent question! From what I find in the Scriptures, I strongly believe that Christ Jesus died for the whole world; however, this does not mean that everyone in the world is automatically saved because Christ Jesus died for all. There is a personal responsibility for all to believe on Christ Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and thus receive the gift of salvation. First of all, I want to stress here that God wants all men to be saved as we read in 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

Secondly, God has made salvation available to all men through the finished work of Christ Jesus on the cross. We read in John 3:16-17: “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. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.” God loved the world, and this means all mankind. Not willing that any should perish, He sent forth His unique Son to die on Calvary’s cross. The shedding of Christ’s blood on that cross will purchase complete pardon for any who receive Christ through faith. His precious blood is more than adequate to pay for all of our sins for all time, but salvation from wrath and judgment is a gift which must be received individually (John 1:12; Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8,9).  Thus, Christ died for all so that anyone could be saved; however, to actually receive salvation, man does have a personal responsibility—you’ll notice that in the last phrase of John 3:16, we read that “whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Thus, the blood of Jesus pays the price of redemption for “whosoever” will believe, so all men could therefore be saved by this free gift of God (Romans 6:23; John 3:36; John 12:32; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15; Romans 10:9; 1 John 4:10).

Now, I do want to take a moment here to clarify what the Scriptures tell us about “election.”  We do get some understanding of this in the words of the Lord Jesus in John 6:37: “All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.”  Additionally, according to the MacDonald’s Bible Commentary on Ephesians 1:3,4 we read: “First, it (the Bible) teaches that God does choose men to salvation (2 Thessalonians 2:13). It addresses believers as those who are “elect according to the foreknowledge of God” (1 Pet. 1:2). It teaches that people can know whether they are elect by their response to the gospel: those who hear and believe it are elect (1 Thessalonians 1:4-7). On the other hand, the Bible never teaches that God chooses men to be lost.”

I truly pray that my response to your question is helpful. The concept of election can be confusing; however, we must accept without reservation what the Bible says, even if it is difficult for our temporal minds to grasp. God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility are both taught in the scriptures so we should accept both as truth. Salvation is the free gift of God to all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and this is the firm foundation of our faith. I am fully confident that no one who truly loves the Lord Jesus Christ will be disappointed.  (SF)  (560.6)