Is it true that if I were the only person alive, Jesus would have gone to the cross for me?
This question comes from a popular quote often used by Christians when sharing the love of Jesus with others:
“If you were the only person on earth, Christ would have still suffered and died for you.”
It is said that these words are from St. Augustine of Hippo more than 1600 years ago. However, it’s questionable whether he ever said these words, or wrote them. This quote is never cited from any of his works (if you have a citation for this, please let me know).
The sentiment can also be traced to the writings of C.S. Lewis. In his book Perelandra (1943), Lewis wrote:
When He died in the Wounded World He died not for men, but for each man. If each man had been the only man made, He would have done no less.
Remember, Lewis’ book is a fiction book, not a biblical commentary. His words might have influenced the use of this claim of “only one person alive,” but it does not support it.
I would suggest that Lewis and Augustine (IF Augustine ever wrote or spoke those words) did not intend to elevate man’s worth, but rather to magnify God’s love. Self-esteem is not a biblical virtue. It’s quite the opposite. Self-esteem is an inward focus. We are to look upward, to Jesus. We are not to elevate ourselves, but rather to humble ourselves, remembering the high cost of our sins, and being thankful to Jesus who humbled Himself and came to earth to live and die for a world of sinners.
I would also suggest that people who use this claim are doing so with the best of intentions. The intention is to illustrate how much Jesus loves us individually. His love is beyond our comprehension and our finite minds are not able to fully understand the immensity of His love and grace.
So is the Statement True?
Whether this quote originated with Augustine or Lewis is not important. The fact that God does not say this, is important.