For Whom Did Christ Die?

The Extent of the Atonement

By John Murray

It was over 30 years ago that I first wrestled with the issue that is the subject of this booklet: The Extent of the Atonement of Christ. As a young seminary student, preparing to serve in the ministry of the church, I was confronted with this subject in a class on Systematic Theology. Yet my personal struggle had begun nearly two years earlier when a friend gave me a copy of John Murray’s book REDEMPTION—Accomplished and Applied. Having been raised in a church that taught that Christ died for every person in the world, past, present and future, to me the issue was settled. But my friend and the material in Murray’s book challenged me to look more closely at this vital subject.

It is a privilege for me to be able to reproduce material that transformed my understanding of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ so many years ago. No subject demands and deserves greater attention than that which addresses the person and work of our Lord, and no effort will be wasted which begins with an open heart and an open Bible.

John Murray (1898-1975) was a master theologian. Born in Scotland and trained at Princeton Seminary, Murray rose to become one of the most highly regarded theologians in the English speaking world. He was very reluctant to publish because of his genuine humility and high standards, but he finally submitted to the counsel of his friends and colleagues, and at the age of 57 he released the book from which this material is drawn. In his Preface he wrote the following:

“It is with some misgiving that I have ventured to offer for publication the following attempt to deal with an aspect of the divine revelation that has been explored to such an extent. This present study cannot pretend to be in the same class as many of the superb contributions of both the more remote and the more recent past. I can only claim that I am presenting what has passed through the crucible of my own reflection.”

Hundreds of thousands will be eternally grateful that Professor Murray overcame his “misgiving” and gave to the world the precious volume that has passed through numerous reprintings. My edition is a tattered one from 1975 which was already the 6th reprint. Later in his Preface we read the following paragraph:

“On so great a theme as Christ’s redemptive accomplishment I am profoundly conscious of the limitations that encompass our attempts at exposition. Thought and expression stagger in the presence of the spectacle that confronts us in the vicarious sin-bearing of the Lord of glory. Here we must realize that we are dealing with the mystery of godliness, and eternity will not reach the bottom of it nor exhaust its praise. Yet it is ours to proclaim it and continue to expound and defend its truth.”

The material contained in our upcoming booklet may confront you with a position you have never before considered. We must beware of the danger of prejudice concerning such matters. I fear that we often hold to convictions without having ever examined them with care. We become accustomed to certain expressions without taking the time to see if they stand up to the scrutiny of Scripture. Let me encourage you to read these pages only after having spent time in prayer asking the Lord: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law” (Psalm 119:18).

On May 24, 1955 John Murray concluded his original Preface with the following words:

“I can only hope that the reader will find these studies consonant with the witness of Holy Scripture as the only infallible rule of faith and that by God’s grace what is accordant with Scripture will elicit the response of faith and conviction.”

Michael Gaydosh

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