The unbiblical teaching that Christ shed His blood and died for every person in the same way bears unbiblical theological fruit such as conditional election, conditional security, and even universalism. Truly, if Christ merely made salvation possible, there is never a guarantee one soul would be saved, and those who would be saved can never have true biblical assurance of salvation. Moreover, many who hold to that position also believe a Christian can lose their salvation if they do not continue in belief, or they might sin their way out of eternal life (which wouldn’t be eternal life would it?). Ultimately, these errors are the result of not understanding (or denying) God’s sovereign work in salvation, which result in not understanding critical doctrines such as regeneration, justification, and sanctification.
Romans 5:10 Proves Limited Atonement
Romans 5:10 nails the coffin shut for the teaching of unlimited atonement (the belief that Christ died for all people without exception). Though there are many verses in Scripture that support the doctrine of limited atonement (sometimes referred to as particular redemption or definite atonement), Romans 5:10 really hones in on this glorious truth. It reads:
For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
Why is this verse so glorious? It is because the death of the Son of God guarantees salvation for those whom Christ died. Salvation is not just possible, it is sure. Yet, if one denies particular redemption, not only could they not have real confidence that any would be saved, but they must believe in universalism if they are to be consistent. I don’t mean they necessarily embrace universalism, but their adherence to unlimited atonement and rejection of universalism exposes a major inconsistency in their theology, especially in light of Romans 5:10.
Who are the enemies of God?
Sinners are the enemies of God. All humans by nature are alienated from God because of our sinful nature and our transgressions against Him (Ephesians 2:3). But Romans 5:10 and Colossians 1:21-22 says God’s enemies were reconciled to Him through the death of Christ:
And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him
Thus, the question must be asked: are all people reconciled to God? And what does it mean to be reconciled? Let’s answer the second question first.
What Is Reconciliation?
To be reconciled is to be brought back into right relationship with God. Through the sin of Adam, all men became alienated from God; yet, through the obedient life of Christ (Christ’s active obedience), many will be restored to God, resulting in eternal life (Romans 5:12-21). It is Christ’s active obedience that gives us the righteousness we need to enter into God’s grace.
But it was Christ’s passive obedience that was necessary to reconcile sinners to God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us the perfect Lamb of God took sin upon Himself. This is known as imputation, meaning that God transferred the sin of all who would believe in Christ to Christ, and God punished Jesus for the crimes of those who deserved the punishment. So it is because our sin was transferred, or imputed, to Christ who received the punishment, that the righteousness, or perfection, of Christ could be imputed to us who did not deserve the pardon for the crimes we committed.
Are All Enemies Reconciled?
This brings us back to the first question. Are all of God’s enemies reconciled to Him? The clear teaching of Scripture is no, all of God’s enemies, or all people, are not reconciled to God because many will be cast into the lake of fire after facing the Great White Throne when they will be judged according to their deeds (Revelation 20:11-14). But Romans 5:10 says that God’s enemies were reconciled to God through the death of Christ – so what are the implications of this verse if all people are not reconciled to God?
2,000 years ago, the death of the Glorious Lamb of God accomplished what it intended, and that is to secure the salvation of Jesus’ people (Matthew 1:21). Those who the Father chose before the foundation of the world had their salvation purchased by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 1:7). The death of Christ guaranteed their reconciliation. His death reconciled God’s elect. “It is finished” the Gospel writers tell us. If Christ died for every individual, all individuals would be reconciled to God, because the text says that we were reconciled through the death of Christ. But, no human has ever existed who was reconciled by the death of Christ, but will not be given eternal life. To be even more clear, there are no reconciled sinners in hell.
Justification and Glorification Guaranteed
So now that God’s elect are reconciled through the death of Christ, this means the reconciliation guarantees the justification of God’s elect. How much more, verse 10 tells us, having been reconciled through His death, that we would be saved by His life! This is a promise, beloved – Christ’s death reconciles the elect, and His righteous life guarantees the justification of the elect. In fact, Romans 4:25 tells us Jesus was raised from the dead for our justification!
And yet there is more good news. Not only does Christ’s death reconcile the elect for whom Christ died, and not only does this reconciliation guarantee the elect’s justification, but it also guarantees their glorification. If sinners have been reconciled, which means the enmity between the sinner and God has been removed, and He has justified them, meaning He has pardoned their crimes for the sake of Christ, He promises He will glorify them. Romans 8:30 makes this clear:
And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
That’s a guarantee, beloved. Those whom He justified He will glorify, and this verse indicates it is already a present reality for the elect from a positional standpoint.
Be Reconciled to God
Finally, Romans 5:11 reads:
More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
These promises of God also have a tension – we must actually receive the reconciliation. We must lay aside our own hostility to the Gospel, and “be reconciled”. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:20,
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
Though Christ’s elect will be justified based on His death and resurrection, it is only through repentance and faith that reconciliation is realized for the sinner. If you never yield yourself to the Lordship of Christ, you were not reconciled through His death 2,000 years ago. Make sure you know Christ – and be reconciled to God.