So we have to ask now what ‘For Many’, and ‘For All’ mean. Well that seems quite obvious. If I pay the entrance fee for the cinema for many of you, then if all of you present yourself at the kiosk, you will not all get in, because I have only paid for many of you. If I pay for all of you, then if you all turn up, you can all get in.
So does this follow, when we will now say that Christ’s Blood was shed ‘for many’ and no longer ‘for all’? Are we really saying that Christ only pays the price for some and not all?
We cannot say that it is only ‘for some’ because we know from both Scripture “we are convinced that one has died for all” (II Cor. 5.14) and Tradition “we must confess that the Redeemer shed his blood for the salvation of all” (Catechism of the Council of Trent) that Christ’s Blood was shed so that all may have access to eternal life. So why did Christ use the words ‘for many’?
Perhaps the best way to understand it is going back to my cinema example. If I pay for all of you, then if you wish, then all of you can go into the cinema, but that does not mean that all of you will. Some of you may decide that the cinema is not for you and you do not take me up on my offer. You all have the possibility to get in, but I will not make you all go in. So practically, only some of you will take me up on the offer. It will be for many of you, and not all.
If this seems a little convoluted, then what is the danger when we say ‘for all’? The danger is thinking that the price has been paid, and so no matter what you do, or think, or say, you will get in… not that you can get in, but that you will. The translation ‘for all’ can lead to the belief that everyone will be saved, no matter what they do or how they act. Come the end, it has been shed for all of us, and so we’ll all go there together. This is seductively attractive, but not right. God will not force our salvation, we have to do our part. We all have the chance, but not all have to be saved. It is our choice.
Salvation has been won for all, but only ‘many’ will respond.