by Jerry Shugart
When the Scriptures speak of the Lord Jesus as having given Himself a ransom on behalf of all men the reference is to "reconciliation." Sir Robert Anderson wrote, "It is impossible that God can be indifferent to His creature;. He must be either for him or against him; He must regard him either with a smile or with a frown; and sin draws down a frown, and not a smile. Apart from the work of Christ, He cannot but be against the sinner; He reckons him an enemy. But 'when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son.' 'God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ.' It is not a present work, but a work past and finished. By that death we who were enemies were reconciled. The appeal of the gospel is now that men would receive the reconciliation. 'Be reconciled to God,' is not an entreaty to the sinner to forgive his God, but an appeal to him to come within the reconciliation God has wrought" (Anderson, The Gospel and Its Ministry [Kregel Publications, 1996], p.141).
Indeed, the reconciliation that God has wrought is spoken of in universal terms:
"And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight" (Col.1:20-22).
Even though this reconciliation is of a universal scope the benefits of the Cross comes only to those who come within the reconciliation:
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God" (2 Cor.5:20; NASB).
The Scriptures reveal that the Lord wants all men to be saved and it is this reconciliation which God has provided that is available to all men.
"Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim.2:4).
The Lord has provided a reconciliation that is available to all men because He is "not willing that any should perish":
"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Pet.3:9).
However, this universal reconciliation is not the same thing as the Lord Jesus dying as a "substitute" for all men, both the saved and the unsaved.