Drinking Deeply

Monday, June 06, 2005 at 1:14 PM

For Whom Did Jesus Taste Death

Somehow, John Piper has a way of putting into words what I have only begun to think about. Not only so, but he puts it into words that boil forth in compassion, something that I desperately need to be demonstrating. An exceprt:

So my question this morning is this: "For whom did Jesus taste death?" Ask 100 evangelical Christians in America that question and 95 will probably say, "Everybody." And there is something healthy about that answer—and something unhealthy. What's healthy about it is that it is not cliquish or elitist or sectarian. It has an eye on the world. It wants others to enjoy the forgiveness of sins that believers enjoy. It is not narrow and confined in its affections.

It tries to express the Biblical truth that God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes might not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). It is healthy and right to believe that everyone who has faith—no matter what race or education or intelligence or social class or former religion—everyone who puts faith in Jesus Christ is justified and accepted with God on the basis of Jesus' shed blood. It's healthy and right to believe that no one can say, "I really want to be saved by believing Jesus, but I can't be because he did not die for me." No one can say that. There is no one who truly believes for whom Jesus did not taste death.

There are lots of reasons why this answer (that Jesus tasted death for everyone) is a sign of spiritual health. One of the most obvious reasons is right here in our text, Hebrews 2:9:

But we do see Him who has been made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.

The answer that 95% of evangelicals would give is a healthy sign of desire to say what the Bible says.

But to say what the Bible says and to mean what the Bible means are not necessarily the same thing. Which is why I said that there is something unhealthy about answering the question "For whom did Jesus taste death?" by simply saying "everybody." What's unhealthy about it is not, first, that it's wrong. It might not be wrong. It depends on what you mean by saying that. What's unhealthy is that it stops short of asking what Jesus really accomplished when he died. It assumes that we all know what he accomplished and that this he accomplished for everybody in the same way. That is not healthy, because it is not true. My guess is that most of those 95% who say Jesus died for everybody would have a hard time explaining just what it is that the death of Jesus really, actually accomplished for everybody—especially what it accomplished for those who refuse to believe and go to hell.

--John Piper "For Whom Did Jesus Taste Death?"

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