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Heidelberg Catechism – Lord’s Day 7 (Q/A 20)



* Before you begin. Read  Matthew 7:13-14

20. Are all men, then, saved by Christ as they have perished in Adam?
No, only those who by true faith are ingrafted into Him and receive all His benefits.
(1) (1)Jn. 1:12-13; I Cor. 15:22; Ps. 2:12; Rom. 11:20; Heb. 4:2-3; 10:39.


Lord’s Day 7 begins with a question on the extent of Christ’s sacrifice. You can appreciate why. The Bible quite clearly, on a number of occasions, tells us that Christ died for the whole world. For example, 1 John 2:2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. Now, this is a contentious area. There are three general positions on this, and I’m going to describe them briefly for you:

The Universalist. This person believes that if Jesus died for the whole wide world, then, logically, since Christ, as God, is all powerful and omnipotent, then the whole world must be saved. This is the position of many liberals, who see no difficulty in worshipping with Muslims and Sikhs… After all, ‘we all worship the same god…’ (They would say).

John Piper notes:
If “the whole world” referred to every individual in the world, we would be forced to say that John is teaching that all people will be saved, which he does not believe (Revelation 14:9-11). The reason we would be forced to say this is that the term propitiation refers to a real removal of wrath from sinners. When God’s wrath against a sinner is propitiated, it is removed from that sinner. And the result is that all God’s power now flows in the service of his mercy, with the result that nothing can stop him from saving that sinner.

Propitiated sins cannot be punished. Otherwise propitiation loses its meaning. Therefore if Christ is the propitiation for all the sins of every individual in the world, they cannot be punished, and must be saved. But John does not believe in such universalism (John 5:29). Therefore it is very unlikely that 1 John 2:2 teaches that Jesus is the propitiation of every person in the world.

The Arminian. The person who believes that Jesus’s death is for everyone -but in order to avail of its cleansing effects on sin, the sinner must first do something, – must come to Christ, or make a decision or get saved, or go in for salvation…. They believe in the ‘free will’ of the sinner, they say. But we have learned, that our free will is corrupted by sin, and that we will never choose Christ on our own, – indeed we won’t even see the need of salvation, for Satan has blinded our eyes to our lost condition, and we need a spiritual work, a work of god, to open them and to come to Christ.

Particular Redemption. A ‘Calvinist’ believes (with much justification) that Christ’s death was only for those whom the father has called to be saved, has predestined and elected to salvation, and he will argue that from another perspective too, that not only did Christ die for us, but that we died IN HIM. That Jesus didn’t just die to offer us salvation, on a take it or leave it basis, but that he died to save us! But here too we hit a problem, for that’s not what we seem to be reading here, for it says here FOR THE WHOLE WORLD. Piper again, “The “whole world” refers to the children of God scattered throughout the whole world.”

Matthew Henry seems to agree: ..the extent of his plea, the latitude of his propitiation. It is not confined to one nation; and not particularly to the ancient Israel of God: He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only (not only for the sins of us Jews, us that are Abraham’s seed according to the flesh), but also for those of the whole world; not only for the past, or us present believers, but for the sins of all who shall hereafter believe on him or come to God through him. The extent and intent of the Mediator’s death reach to all tribes, nations, and countries. As he is the only, so he is the universal atonement and propitiation for all that are saved and brought home to God, and to his favour and forgiveness.

We need to explore further, so, what does the text say? It says that Jesus died for THE SINS of the whole world. There is the key! Yet not every sinner will know and benefit from Christ’s saving power, for not every sinner will be saved. So we state here that Christ’s death is SUFFICIENT for every sin that every sinner ever committed, but EFFICIENT only for those sinners who have faith in him and thus are his. Matthew Henry writes:
The Catechist concurs: “… only those who by true faith are ingrafted into Him and receive all His benefits.”

Hebrews 4:2-3 For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. 3 For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, “As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest’”, although his works were finished from the foundation of the world.

Think about it!
What makes you believe that all men have perished in Adam?_____________________________________________
(Read Romans 5:18 & 1 Corinthians 15:22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive)

So, are all men then saved, because Christ died for all? __________________________________________________
(Read Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy[a] that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.)

What do these verses tell you about who shall be saved?
Matthew 1:21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.


Isaiah 53:11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see[a] and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.


When the Gospel is preached, some are saved, some are not. Why is this?

John 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.


What does it mean to be ‘ingrafted into Him?’


Read 2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Read this verse: 1 Corinthians 1:30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.
What benefits do we receive from having New Life in Christ?



Consider also: Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? John 1:12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.


The Catechist tells us what we MUST HAVE in order to be saved. What is it?

_ _ _ _ /  _ _ _ _ _

We will learn more about this essential ingredient in Q/A21.

One Comment
  1. Hey there,

    In case I misread you, please forgive. The actual case for Ursinus, the principal writer of the HC, he argued that Christ suffered for the sins for all men. For Ursunis, Christ suffered for all, but the application is conditioned by faith. Becase of this and like language, Richard Muller labels Ursinus an early non-Amyraldian exponent of Hypothetical Universalism (HU).

    You can see this in HC 37, which should be read in the light of his own exposition.

    You should also read his comments in the light of his student’s addition to the original Latin publication of the explication of the HC, where David Paraeus affirms that Christ suffered and shed his blood for all mankind. In the original Latin, there is a marginal reference which notes the section written by Paraeus. Unfortunately, modern reprints and translations tend to leave out that marginal reference. And further, as Roger Nicole notes, there was no difference of opinion on this matter between Paraeus and Ursinus.

    You might also be interested to note that Ursinus rejected the double payment dilemma as posed in his day by the Socinians. That is, if Christ suffers for a given man, that man can fail to be saved because the application of the benefit of Christ’s death is conditional. Here Ursinus follows Thomas Aquinas almost word for word.

    For more on Ursinus and Paraeus, click on my name, go to my C&C site, click on the name index for Ursinus and Paraeus, respectively.

    You can also go to the main index, scroll down to the double payment index and see refutations of the double payment dilemma from such men as C Hodge and Dabney, et al.

    And lastly, ironically, Matthew Henry was another early HU advocate.

    If you need any help finding the links, holla back at me.

    Thanks for your time,

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