Ultimately, Jesus Didn’t Die for You

It’s true. Ultimately, Jesus didn’t die for you. But walk into just about any church and before you even find the coffee, which is your only hope for not awkwardly standing out, you’ll hear someone say, “Jesus died for you!” Unsure of how to respond, you hesitantly, yet politely reply, “Thank you?” Wanting to convince them that this isn’t your first church service, with a confident head nod you inject a more ‘religious’ response. “And also for you!”

I grew up in the church and I’ve always heard the exact same thing countless times. My chest would puff up a little bit as I thought “Jesus died for ME! Man, I must be a pretty big deal.” What they said wasn’t necessarily wrong, but it was incomplete. I want to plead the case that, although Christ died and made a way for salvation, ultimately, he didn’t die for your sake and he certainly didn’t die for mine either.

I recently started a new job at Youth For Christ and my ministry coordinator loves to debate and wrestle with deep theological questions. One day as we were talking about church planting and philosophy, he asked me a question that nobody had asked me before. “Does God love us or himself more?” I was taken aback at such an appalling question. I mean, after all,  Jesus died for US! God loves ME! Has this idiot never heard of John 3:16?

“He loves us more!” I quickly answered, “……..I think.”

I walked out of his office without being able to get that question out of my head. All of my life I’d heard that I’m a child of God, that Jesus died for me, that he wants relationship with me and how much he loves ME! So naturally I’d think that he doesn’t love anyone more than his beloved creation. I decided I’d get back to my coordinator later with a better answer. I put the question to rest and started diving into my new book Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt. A few chapters in, the book listed a biblical passage that, coincidently enough, answered that very question.

“Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.” -Ezekiel 36:22-23 (ESV)

Platt elaborates, “We are not the end of the gospel; God is. God centers on himself, even in our salvation. Remember his words in Ezekiel: he saves us, not for our sake, but for the sake of his holy name. We have received salvation so that his name will be proclaimed in all nations. God loves us for his sake in the world.”

In western Christianity, where we church shop according to our own wants and conditions to learn about a grace that centers around us, this might come as a shock. But if we look at this passage and Scripture as a whole, it looks like God surely loves us, but that he is a whole lot more concerned with his own glory than ours. He offers grace, mercy and salvation which is nothing short of a gift, but ultimately it is so that in the end God receives more glory. God blesses us with these so that we might extend his glory. It is not for our sake, but for the sake of his holy name.

I’m not saying we weren’t part of the reason Jesus died on the cross, but we are not the primary reason. I think his motives somewhat go hand in hand and play off of each other, meaning they are not completely separate. His blessings stem from his glory and in turn extend his glory.

God is for God, more than God is for us.” -Matt Chandler

For us (see I included myself) that still are skeptical or have a hard time with this, I’ll list some more supplemental verses.

-Psalm 23:3 – He leads me in paths of righteousness for HIS NAME’s sake.

-Isaiah 43:7 – everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for MY glory

-Isaiah 43:25 – I, I am he who blots out your transgressions FOR MY OWN SAKE, and I will not remember your sins.

-Psalm 106 – Yet he saved them (Israel) for HIS NAME’s sake, that he might make known HIS mighty power.

-John 17:24 – Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, TO SEE MY GLORY that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 

-Ephesians 1:5-6 – In love, he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of HIS will, TO THE PRAISE OF HIS GLORIOUS GRACE, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

-Romans 3:25-26 – This (Jesus dying on the cross) was TO SHOW GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was TO SHOW HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

“God’s ultimate goal is to uphold and display the glory of his name.” -John Piper

So as we, often self-centered Christians, try to swallow this truth, I am sure that many questions arise. “God has ulterior motives? Does God really love us then? Wait, is God selfish?”

But as David Platt writes, “Whom else would we have him exalt?……The Bible is not saying that God does not love us deeply. On the contrary, we have seen in Scripture a God of unusual, surprising, intimate passion for his people. But that passion does not ultimately center on his people. It centers on his greatness, his goodness, and his glory being made know globally among all peoples. And to disconnect God’s blessing for God’s global purpose is to spiral downward into an unbiblical, self-saturated Christianity that misses the point of God’s grace.”

If this does come as a shock to you (like it does to me) or doesn’t sit quite right, then I would propose that maybe you’re more concerned with your own glory than the glory of God. We want Christianity to be about us. We want to keep hearing about what Jesus can do for us. We want the object of our faith to be us. But it’s not.

In conclusion, I am not saying that God doesn’t love you. I am also not saying that you weren’t a motivation in Jesus going to the cross. But you weren’t the end all. It wasn’t just for us. To say it was is an incomplete view of the gospel and Bible. I am saying that ultimately, God is more concerned about His own glory than about yours. He has an underlying motive in his love for us and in sending his Son. Ultimately, above all, the main purpose for the cross is for his name’s sake and to display his glory and righteousness.

I text my coordinator, “I’ve got my final answer. Ezekiel 36:22-23. God loves himself more. Next question please.”

-Daniel Wilde

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>>>Agree? Disagree? Am I an unbiblical heretic? Lets start a conversation and let us know your thoughts here.

13 thoughts on “Ultimately, Jesus Didn’t Die for You

  1. Tucker P

    I think the question that we need to be asking is this: What is the purpose of being a Christian? This should be a fairly simple question to answer, however, I believe it is one that is overlooked far too often. Once we accept Christ, then what? What is our purpose? Yes, we (hopefully) go through a process of transformation and sanctification along our journey to perfection in Jesus. But if this is all we do, we miss the point. Our salvation becomes solely about us, rather than the goodness of God. In the great commission, Christ tells us to go make disciples and baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Why? What is the purpose? Dan does a great job of identifying the purpose. To bring God glory. To spread the word of His Gospel, and of His sacrifice. God did not have to save us. He does not need us in heaven. He does not need a relationship with us. However, He did save us, offer us heaven, and a relationship with Him. Why? Yes, I believe part of that equation is God’s love for us. Without a doubt. Dan acknowledges that in this article. But just as much, if not more (I’m not God so a definitive statement is foolish), is the fact that in saving us, God is bringing himself glory. Great conversation everyone!!

  2. Anonymous

    Question for you: Why must God “have to” love one more than the other, why can’t God love us as much as He loves Himself (when you consider God tells us to love others as much as we love ourselves is that such an outlandish thought to consider that God would ask of us as He does Himself? Be imitators of God ringing any bells)? Why does there have to be a more/one or the other, are those the only possible answers to your friend’s question “Who does God love more”? Secondly even if it were true that God did love Himself more, how does that equate to “Jesus didn’t die for (us)?” That is a implicitly dangerous and incomplete statement. He didn’t die for animals, He didn’t die for the angels or demons. It was because that through the First Adam sin entered the world that through the last Adam (Jesus) that sin would be removed (1 Cor 15). Furthermore the primary purpose of the cross was to provide a propitiation for our sins, so how then can we say the primary purpose of Christ’s death was for His own sake since He is without sin? He very well did die for me, you and everyone who is willing. He sacrificed His own life PURPOSEFULLY so that WE may be with Him as He ORIGINALLY INTENDED and purposed from the beginning. There is honor and glory that Christ receives and it is highly esteemed by God, as is well documented and God frequently does much for His name, glory and honor. There are no disputes there. However, you are essentially using this kind of logic, I am not a lobster because apples are fruits and oranges are ball shaped. Individually the statements are true but together, well… just because you can say true things, doesn’t make the whole thing correct. You want to open up dialogue and discussion fine, but what’s the real issue you are wanting to address? How does what you’re wanting to do, edify and lift up? Even if everything you say is true what is the next step, what does that mean, how do we act on that? Or is it just great thoughts to just store away in our memory banks for trivia time. Whether anything I said makes sense to you at all or not, I urge you to rewrite your blog, try again, don’t leave me hanging hearing “next question” as if something just got settled and accomplished. What value is there in thoughtful discussion in absence of action, if it leaves you no further than right at the start?

    1. Daniel Wilde Post author

      Wow. Thanks for all of the thoughts. I’ll try to respond to as much as I can. First, I don’t know why he has to pick one. I think my coordinator’s point was just to get me thinking. But as I objectively study scripture, I can’t help but see that God lists over and over again how he does all of these things for his glory and his name’s sake.

      Second, obviously Jesus did die on the cross for the penalty of death. I am not trying to argue that. But did God send his Son just so that we would escape hell? I mean instead of hell, what are we spending eternity doing? Worshipping and glorifying his name in Heaven. “We have received salvation so that his name will be proclaimed in all the nations. God loves us for his sake in the world.” -David Platt

      Third, I almost deleted this post because I didn’t want to be divisive. But if it’s going to get people studying and meditating on the bible then I wanted to keep it. We should sharpen each other as iron sharpens iron. We shouldn’t be afraid to tackle deep topics that go against Christian culture.

      Thanks again!


      1. grchance

        well said Daniel. In reply to Anonymous, I don’t believe God would love us as much as Himself because we are not to be equals with God. And I believe that John 3:16 shows that God loves us, and that he made a way for us to have relationship with Him, once we have a relationship with God what do we do with our lives? Our lives should be lived in such a way to bring Glory to God, so ultimately it is God’s glory that Christ died for!!! Seems pretty simple to me.

  3. A Snyder

    “So I poured out my wrath upon them for the blood that they had shed in the land, for the idols with which they had defiled it. I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed through the countries. ”

    This is the context, the situation in which Isreal has found itself. They have indeed both declared the Lord as their God and defiled His name publically. They received judgement and in their judgement are really thumbing their noses at God and giving the nations of the world a cause to mock God. But God says that in the interest of redeeming His character in front of Israel and the pagan nations, He will honor the covenant that He made with Himself in front of Abraham (remember the dead animals cut in half?). He states He is going to gather them from the nations they have been exiled to, not because they deserve it; but because of who He is and just what kind of God the world will witness by this rescue, a God of selfless LOVE. In other words “I’m not doing your bidding ( you clearly don’t deserve my help at all); I’m about to act in accordance with my greatness. I’m about to show you and the world WHO and HOW BIG I AM!
    So, when He says that He acts in His own interest, His interest is showing the world that He keeps His promises, even to His cheating Bride, the nation of Israel. God made a covenant with HIMSELF. He swore by His own name. And now He keeps the deal He made with Himself. He does this before jeering, laughing, skeptical pagans who have been watching this judgement and doubting God’s love for His people.
    It’s a picture of Salvation in that God is acting because of His goodness and not in response to man’s efforts, works or earned value. The “WHY” of this covenant/ deal is LOVE, however. God acts on His goodness because He loves us! He laid down His life, and Jesus said no greater LOVE is there than that a man lay down his life for his friends! So this act involves the purest of love, the forgiving, reckless kind of love that takes a cheating spouse back…or gives a criminal like me new life.
    In closing,
    Paul spent a whole book YELLING about over-complicating the gospel. It is simple and straightforward.
    God’s motives are also simple and straightforward. Read Galatians.

    Stating flatly that “Christ did not die for you” is irresponsible. I don’t care what kind of literary Pathos you are employing to enhance your writing. Appealing to people’s emotions is good for drawing them in. Bamboozling them theologically is not.

    1. J.D.

      Slow down, Snyder… How is it an over-complicating of the Gospel when we acknowledge the glory of God? As grchance stated above – seems pretty simple. However, if we put ourselves at the center of God’s glorious plan of redemption, our Gospel results in a dangerous, self-focused Christianity. Dan’s post uses “literary Pathos” to simply draw attention to a simple fact: God loves you…but not ONLY you. In knowing that God’s glory is the trump card, it shapes how we live, how we work and play, how we raise our children, etc. I praise God that I now live with the reward of eternal reconciliation – but even more so, with the intent to give God glory in every aspect of my life! This is not an over-complicated Gospel, but a more finely-tuned understanding of it.

  4. Greg Snyder

    My wife saw this post on Facebook and we had a talk about it and I wanted to share some of our talk…

    I think that the notion that god did salvation all for himself requires an incredibly cynical view of “true love”. Since the relationship of Christ and Israel/church is a parallel to the model of marriage I will make this comparison. The closest modern equalivent to this would be when a spouse cheats on their partner and they decide to forgive not because the cheater deserves it but because the victim loves their partner.

    I have taken part in intellictual (and incredibly pointless) debates in college, whether love actually exists. The premise is that the one in love receives something back from their selflessness, IE endorphins that make them feel good, but to make that academic argument would require the total omission of many other scriptures, “for God so loved the world… Ect”.

    if Jesus is the perfect example of selfless love, of course his love will be given out of his greatness, BUT that does not mean that his love complelled him to die for everyone.

    In all honesty, I believe that people overreact to bad theology by going too far the other way. Today’s culture preaches that God loves everything, let’s not take things too far to the other side and say god loves nothing but himself.

    1. Greg Snyder

      When I mentioned Jesus dying for all in the second to last paragraph I was meaning universal salvation and not dying for all who will except his grace. These theological topics are hard to adequately discuss on a blog, but love by nature is selfless. It complels you to do certain things weather or not your beloved deserves it.

  5. Anonymous

    “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

    “Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God.”

    “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us”

    “Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”

    Love was & will always be his motivation. That doesn’t sound very selfish to me.

  6. Ashlyn Smith

    But what about the most well known verse on the topic? “For God so loved the world…” Doesn’t that basically answer the question? And how about “No greater love has a man than this. .”? He basically says there ‘I’m doing this for you, my friends, my children.” I agree that modern Christianity is very self-centered. But love is by Corinthians 13 definition, others-centered by its nature.


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