I have a question; I am curious as to how non-Calvinists will understand a text that (I think) plainly teaches a distinction between those for whom Christ died for and whom he didn't die for. You claim that Jesus died for everyone in your post, so I suppose it is relevant.
How do you interpret the text from the Gospel of John where Jesus is recorded as saying the following:
22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter,
23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon.
24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”
25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me,
26 but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock.
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.
30 I and the Father are one.”
And prior to this Jesus claims that he lays his life down for the sheep.
Here he clearly, it seems to me, describes two different group of persons: the sheep, for whom he lays his life down, those whom the Father had given him, who will never die (because they have eternal life); the non-sheep, who don't believe in him because they are not a part of his flock, for whom he does not lay his life.
This text seems clear to me; it may not teach exactly what I understand it as teaching however.
What sense can you make of it?
I see that the question above specifically relates to the Calvinist doctrine of “Limited Atonement” but a second Calvinist doctrine is also inferred due to its close relationship to the first. It is that of Unconditional Election: that God unconditionally elected some to be saved, and that Jesus laid down His life ONLY for those whom God had unconditionally elected for salvation.
Firstly, before considering the portion of scripture quoted, I again draw attention to the fact that scripture as a whole is a revelation of God and His purposes. Any interpretation of a PORTION of scripture MUST be compatible with the revelation contained in the rest of scripture. If an interpretation contradicts the clear meaning of the rest of scripture, that interpretation is clearly wrong.
The excerpt from John, taken in isolation, could be seen to give some support for the Calvinist doctrines that are alluded to in the question. However, should that inferred support lead us to ignore very CLEAR statements elsewhere in scripture that categorically say that God desires ALL to be saved and that he provided His Son to die for ALL and not a limited few?
“This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires ALL people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”(1Ti 2:3-4)
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that ALL should reach repentance.” (2Pe 3:9)
"For God so loved THE WORLD, that he gave his only Son, that WHOEVER believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that THE WORLD MIGHT BE SAVED through him. (John 3:16 -17)
“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw ALL people to myself." (Joh 12:32)
“For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on ALL.” (Rom 11:32)
Could any statements about God’s will be CLEARER than those? Are they in any way compatible with the view that God has already chosen an elect few to be saved, and by His will and His will alone has determined that the rest will be damned for eternity?
Therefore is it even remotely possible that John 10 is promoting those Calvinist doctrines of limited atonement and unconditional election when it is made blatantly clear elsewhere in scripture that He desires ALL to be saved and that he gave His Son for THE WORLD and not for a pre-elected minority?
Clearly not without some very creative redefining of what is meant by some very simple words such as ALL, the WORLD and WHOEVER.
Unfortunately, that is exactly the approach taken by those who choose to protect their theology from the exposing light of scripture. When scripture reads “ALL” the Calvinist sees “All of the elect”, and therefore changes the meaning of scripture to enable him to justify his theology.
So how do we reconcile John 10 with the broader view of scripture, as demonstrated above? Who are the sheep according to Jesus?
The answer is given half way through the excerpt from John 10.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)
His sheep are those who hear His voice and follow Him. Those who do not hear His voice and follow Him are not His sheep. We see elsewhere in scripture that there is a relationship between hearing Jesus’ word and faith.
Rom 10:17, tells us that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ”.
Within its context, this quote from Romans 10 addresses Israel’s disobedience to the word they have heard. They heard the word but remained disobedient and contrary. They heard the word but did not HEED the word.
Faith (belief) will not come to those who do not hear (give heed to) the word of Christ.
This is exactly the picture of those to who Jesus is speaking in John 10. They are people who have witnessed the miraculous works Jesus has done and have heard His teaching, and yet remain contrary in nature – refusing to accept the clear evidence readily available to them, they ask for more.
They refused to heed what Jesus had already said and done and therefore were not His sheep. They did not hear his words so they were denied the faith that comes through the word of Christ.
See another passage also loved by Calvinists that Calvinists assume limits the redeemed to a group specifically chosen and given to the Son by the Father.
Joh 6:37–39 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.
But the following verse adds the qualifying statement of :
Joh 6:40 “For this is the will of my Father, that EVERYONE who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day."
EVERYONE who looks on the Son and believes in Him.
Compare with the famous John 3:16 (and especially note its context)
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (Joh 3:14-18)
In the wilderness everyone who LOOKED UPON the serpent were saved from the poison of the snakes. Those who chose not to look upon the serpent were not saved.
Likewise, it is the will of that Father that EVERYONE who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life. Those are the ones who the Father gives to Jesus, those who look upon Him and believe in Him.
Who are those able to believe in Him?
Those who hear and give heed to His word.
Rom 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes”
“If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear."
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says…”
Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years.
Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, 'They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.'
As I swore in my wrath, 'They shall not enter my rest.'"
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.
But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.
As it is said, "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion."
For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses?
And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness?
And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient?
So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief. (Heb 3:7-19 )
Relationship with Jesus is conditional upon BELIEVING in Him. Belief (faith) in Him comes through hearing (giving heed to) His word and acting upon it.
Who are the sheep that are able to believe in Jesus? Those who give heed to his word and follow Him.
How can they give heed to his word? Because there is POWER to SAVE in HIS gospel.
So who are you going to hear and heed? Jesus and HIS word? Or the word of man's theology?