The Son, the good Shepherd, lays down His life for His sheep. The sheep for which He dies are His sheep. In fact, the Lord says that He knows His sheep and His sheep know Him, even as He knows His Father and His Father knows Him. That is incredible! How should we understand such a thing? Simply put, this is covenantal language. God is not admitting to know certain facts about us and us Him. No, the baseline of covenantal knowledge is that of intimacy; He loves us and He has enabled us to love Him. As a matter of fact, He loved us when we were yet sinners and unworthy of His love.
A theological earthquake shook my life over twenty years ago. I can still see the classroom lit by the afternoon sun. It was mostly quiet and peaceful that day with one exception. A classmate was standing in front of me trying for all he was worth to persuade me of definite or limited atonement. If the terminology is unfamiliar to you just remember that it is standard nomenclature used to describe the nature and the extent of Christ’s atonement. To flesh this out even further, a Calvinist believes that “God’s method of saving men is to set upon them in his almighty grace, to purchase them to himself by the precious blood of his Son, to visit them in the inmost core of their being by the creative operations of his Spirit, and himself, the Lord God Almighty, to save them.”[i]
My friend had an uphill battle to wage. But that day he did something very simple. He verbalized my own position. He said something that I believed and had said myself many times before. But that day when I heard him articulate my position back to me it sounded strange; it sounded wrong. What did he say, you ask? He said, “Jeff, according to your position Christ’s death only made salvation possible, which means that you must concede two hypothetical scenarios; the death of Christ could have saved everyone or no one.” Yes, that was what I had believed and what I had taught but on that day it sounded erroneous.
God had given to me a new set of ears. So, I went back to the Scripture and started asking a basic question; for whom did Christ die? It didn’t take long for me to find the answer. If you have a Bible handy grab it and turn to John 10.