We hear in church that “Jesus died for everyone,” but why are some people saved and others are not? Did Jesus only die for some people? These are questions Christian hip-hop artist FLAME struggled with too. Read his account about this struggle in his faith. The following is adapted from Extra Nos: Discovering Grace outside Myself.
I recall standing on stage in Kingston, Jamaica. I looked at a crowd of hundreds and hundreds of people and wanted to tell them that Jesus died for them. But I couldn’t. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and simply spewed off something like, “Jesus loves us and died for all those who would believe.”
That was it. I felt horrible. I felt like I lied to them. Yet, my Calvinist-informed conscience restricted my verbiage.
I admit, I struggled deeply just to get through that concert. It was as if the Holy Spirit was grieved and was tugging at my heart that I had been unfaithful to the Gospel. Had I? It was a strange and conflicting experience. Why would the Spirit be disappointed? Aren’t I communicating “sound doctrine”?
By this point, I was well into my Reformed Baptist journey and had grown accustomed to speaking and thinking that way. Yet out of nowhere, somehow, the Spirit’s voice cut through my seemingly impenetrable layers of carefully crafted Calvinistic convictions and quietly whispered 1 Timothy 4:9–10:
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive,
because we have our hope set on the living God,
who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
Sometimes, I reimagine myself on that same stage, in that same moment, but this time, with my eyes open and a heart full of scriptural theology that Jesus is the Savior of the world! He is the Savior of all people. The question becomes this: Are you going to, by faith, subjectively receive what has already been objectively purchased for you? Or will you resist what is yours: salvation,
Christ? This time, I would make the same distinction Paul made: “the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.”
If we are not listening carefully, we wrongly hear this as teaching universalism (that everyone will go to heaven). That is not the case at all. Neither Paul nor his audience assumed universalism follows from this train of thought. The text states plainly that Christ is the Savior of all but uniquely of those who believe.
Yes, Jesus is the Savior of the world, but only by faith alone does one receive the benefits of salvation. However, it would be a while before I would come to realize this.
Blog post adapted from Extra Nos: Discovering Grace outside Myself, © 2023 Marcus “FLAME” Gray, published by Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
To read more of FLAME's faith journey, order Extra Nos.