All Men Saved
Copyright by Matthew J. Slick, B.A., M. Div., 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003
used by permission
Predestination is the doctrine that God alone is the One who chooses who is saved, that He ordains the means, the time, and the circumstances of salvation and that without His predestination, no one would ever be saved. In part this is because human nature is so completely corrupted by sin that no person is capable of choosing God unless God first regenerates that person. But any Bible student will soon discover there are verses which say God wants all men to be saved. For example, "This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth" (1Ti 2:3-4, NIV). The question, then, is if God predestines only some to salvation, why are there verses that say God wants all to be saved?
The answer is simple: The "all" are the Christians. Now, before you toss this paper aside, please try to be open-minded. I will prove that the "all" in at least three important verses that deal with salvation means the Christians. To do so, I would like to examine 2Co 5:14, 1Co 15:22, and then Rom 5:18 where the word "all" is used in a way that can only mean the elect. Then I will examine other apparent universal passages.
Before I begin, and for clarity, I would like to introduce a couple of terms: Arminianism and Calvinism. Essentially, Arminianism states that man is able, by his own free will, to choose or reject God and that Jesus died for everyone who ever lived. Calvinism states that it is God alone who chooses who is saved, not man, and that Jesus died only for the Christians.
Also, I would like to introduce a principle that will become important later in this paper. It will help us in understanding God's word. Let's say we have two sets of scriptures that are related. For example, they deal with salvation and contain the word "all." And let's say that some of the scriptures can be interpreted in two ways, and the rest of the scriptures can only be interpreted one way. It follows then that those that can be interpreted two ways must be interpreted in harmony with those that have only one interpretation.
If the first group of salvation verses containing "all" have two interpretations and the second group of salvation verses containing "all" has only one possible interpretation...Then the first group must be interpreted in such a way as to agree with the second group; both must be interpreted as, say, "B." This will prove helpful in looking at scriptures later, especially after we've examined the next three verses.
One last thing: you will find that though I seek to prove a single presupposition, I end up discussing several points. This is because of the intermingling of theological ideas that flow from the verses discussed. I simply ask that you bear with me.
2 Corinthians 5:14-15:
"For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf."
At first glance the phrase "He died for all" would lead you to think that Jesus died for every individual who has ever lived. But upon a closer look we see something different revealed. When Paul speaks of people dying, in relation to the death of Christ, he is speaking of the Christians who have died in Christ: "Now if we have died with Christ..." (Rom 6:8); "If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world..." (Col 2:20); "For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God" (Col 3:3); "It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him" (2Ti 2:11). The only ones who have died with Christ are the believers, not the unbelievers. Therefore, this verse can only make sense if it is understood that the "all" spoken of is not everyone who has ever lived, but only the Christians: "...that one (Jesus) died for all (the Christians), therefore all (the Christians) died..."
But, you might ask, "If God meant only the Christians, then why did He use the word ‘all'?" I believe it is because from all eternity God knew who He had chosen to be the elect and the eternal plan of redemption was carried out to reclaim "all" He had chosen. Therefore, the "all" to Him is the all for which He intended the death of Christ to atone.
It is important here that you understand that sometimes God uses words differently than we do. For example, the Bible says that God only knows believers, not unbelievers. "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me" (John 10:27, NIV); "...The Lord knows those who are his," (2Ti 2:19, NIV); "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,'' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" (Mat 7:21-23, NIV). Of course, God knows who everyone is, He is omniscient. But the way He is using the word in relation to the saved is different than we use it: He knows the Christians, and doesn't know the non-Christians. This knowing is an intimate, familiar kind of knowing.
You see, it is important to understand that the Bible best interprets itself. We need to see how it uses words and phrases and then, once we have a clearer understanding, attempt to interpret the Word of God.
1 Corinthians 15:22-23:
"For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming."
Who are the ones who will be made alive? They are the Christians and only the Christians. First of all, to be "in Christ" is a phrase that describes a saving relationship between the redeemed and the Redeemer: "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom 8:1, NIV) (See also, Rom 6:11; 12:5; 16:7; 1Co 1:2, etc.); second, those who are made alive at Christ's coming are the believers. We will be made alive with Christ: "By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also" (1Co 6:14, NIV); "in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed" (1Co 15:52, NIV).
The "all" that died in Adam were all that Adam represented: every individual who ever lived. Those "in Christ" are only believers. The "all" therefore can only be the believers, because it says "in Christ all shall be made alive." If all shall be made alive, then the "all" can only mean the believers because only believers are made alive in Christ. There simply isn't any biblically consistent alternative interpretation. But you might object and say that the first "all" refers to everybody, obviously. So why, then, doesn't the second do the same? Because the second "all" can't refer to everyone. Only the Christians are made alive.
It could be said that everyone, believer and unbeliever alike, will be raised; only the unbelievers are raised to receive damnation. This is true, but it does not fit here in this passage because it is speaking of those who are Christ's; that is, the believers. The "all" of these verses can only be the elect.
"So, as through one offense, there resulted condemnation to all men, so also, through one righteous deed, there resulted justification of life to all men."
The literal, word for word, translation of Romans 5:18 is:
so therefore as through one offense into all men into condemnation, so also through one righteous deed into all men into justification of life"
So, therefore, as through one offense, into all men into condemnation,
so, also, through one righteous deed, into all men into justification of life.
Because there is no verb in this verse (it is not unusual in Greek for there to be no verb in a sentence), a verb must be borrowed or implied. Since there isn't a verb close enough in the previous verses to borrow and that would fit appropriately, one from the context must be derived. A smoothed out version would be:
So, as through one offense, there resulted condemnation to all men,
so also, through one righteous deed, there resulted justification of life to all men.
We know that inserting the words "there resulted" into the text is correct by simple logic. The offense of Adam resulted in condemnation to all men--no one disputes that. Adam represented all his people (everybody) in the garden. When he sinned, we fell with him. There was a result, an actual result to his sin: condemnation. It follows that "there resulted" should be in the second part of the sentence as well because the second part has the same syntax as the first and says "also." That is, Paul is implying a parallel between the actions of Adam and the actions of Jesus. Adam represented his people; Jesus represented His.
1) The structure of the first and the second parts of the verse are the same: adverb(s), preposition, noun, (verb place), noun, and object.
Paul is trying to make it clear in this verse that the deeds of the respective persons had definite results upon those whom they represented. That is why the verse is really two sentences of identical structure.
Adam's sin resulted in condemnation to all
Jesus' sacrifice resulted in justification to all
Where the first Adam brought condemnation to all, the second Adam (Jesus is called the second Adam in 1Co 15:45) brought justification to all--that is what the text says, despite the apparent problem of "all people being justified."
Justification is being declared legally righteous before God. If someone is declared legally righteous before God, then he is saved. Only the saved are justified: "Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him " (Rom 5:9). Since the Scriptures clearly teach that not all men are saved (Mat 25:31-33), we know that the "all" in this verse can't refer to every individual. It must refer to something other than everyone who ever lived. I conclude that the "all" can only mean the Christians. God was so sure of His predestination that to Him, the elect are the "all" He wishes to save.
The NASB gives the best translation: "So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men."
The NIV does not translate it as literally. It says, "Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men." The NIV is right in adding the word "result." The NIV is an excellent translation but in this verse it sacrifices the literalness needed to draw out this aspect of biblical teaching.
Furthermore, if the verb phrase "that brings" is in the second part, it should then be in the first part of the verse because the verse is two identical thoughts. If that were done, then "that brings" would take on the meaning of result, because condemnation is exactly what resulted to all men when Adam sinned. Since the verse is in two identical parts, what is done to one should be done to the other. The NIV is not consistent in its translation at this point.
The KJV translates it thus: "Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation, even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life." The words "free gift" are not in the Greek. The translators have drawn conclusions, though accurate ones, but I believe this too does injustice to the text by not letting it say what it says. Also, if the free gift simply came upon all people, then it does not mean that it resulted, and the apparent problem of all people being justified is taken care of. Unfortunately, that isn't what the Greek says.
I believe some translators of the Bible, when coming across this verse, realize the problem of saying the atonement resulted in justification to all men. They assume the "all" means every individual and then translate the scripture in light of their theology to allow harmony with their interpretations of the rest of the scriptures. I think that is a mistake. Translators should translate the text as accurately as possible, even if it conflicts with their theology.
In these three verses it is clear that God has used the word "all" differently than what would normally be expected. This is an indication that God has intended for the "all" to be saved, and they are. When God is thinking of the "all" He is thinking of a specific group. These three verses bare that out. But, what about other verses that have a universal flavor to them?
The Universal Passages
John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life."
If predestination is true, then why does this verse state "whoever believes" will be saved? The Bible says that faith is a gift from God (Rom 12:3); that it is God who grants belief (Phi 1:29); it is God who produces belief in a person (John 6:29); and only those appointed to eternal life by God are the ones who believe (Acts 13:48). Also, faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God (Rom 10:17). In order for someone to believe, they must hear the gospel of Jesus (1Co 15:1-4) because the gospel is the power of God for salvation (Rom 1:16). There is no other name under heaven besides Jesus by which anyone may be saved (Act 4:12). And, one must receive Jesus (John 1:12) in order to be saved.
Since these things are true, then how can the "whoever" of John 3:16 apply to those who never heard the Word of God? There are multitudes who never heard the gospel at all, who never had the chance. Consider the Aborigines, the Bushmen, the Eskimos, or the American Indians, who died before the time of Christ, or who even lived before the time of Christ. Yet they NEVER heard ANYTHING about Christianity, the atonement, the resurrection, the holy scriptures, or the gospel. It was never preached to them at all. How, then, can the "whoever" apply to them when they have no chance of hearing the Word of God concerning Jesus and salvation? From what I know of scripture, they cannot.
To answer this question some say that those who never heard the gospel will not be judged the same way as those who have. But that answer contradicts the scriptures that clearly say no one gets to the Father but through Jesus (John 14:6); that it is the gospel that saves (Rom 1:16); the gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection for sins (1Co 15:1-4); and, there is no other name under heaven besides Jesus by which anyone may be saved (Acts 4:12).
John 12:32: "But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." (NIV)
Does the "all" here refer to every individual on the planet? If yes, then how can they be drawn and come to salvation if they never hear of Jesus and the gospel message? I don't see how they can since they never had the opportunity to hear and, therefore, believe in Jesus. Again, what about the tribesmen in the Amazon? What about the Incas and Aztecs at the time of Christ? What about the countless people who had never even heard of Jesus, the Bible, Jehovah, or the Jews? How are they drawn if Jesus draws all men? They certainly must be drawn if the Arminian position is valid and the "all" here means every individual. But no one can believe unless they hear the Word of God (Rom 10:17). How can the heathen believe without hearing? How can they all be drawn if they never hear the gospel or even have the slightest chance to ever hear it? They cannot.
Romans 8:32: "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?" The question again here is, who are the "all"? Are they every individual on the planet who ever lived (the Arminian position) or are they the elect, the chosen of God (the Calvinist position)? We need to examine the verses in their context.
Romans 8:31-38: "What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all -- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died -- more than that, who was raised to life -- is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.' 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (NIV).
Verse 31 starts the context and it is clearly speaking of the Christians. Only those who are covered by the blood of the Lamb have been reconciled and are no longer enemies of God (Rom 8:7). The "us" of verse 31 can only refer to the Christians. Verse 32 speaks of Jesus' sacrifice for "us all." Is the "us" suddenly everyone, the unbeliever too? Verse 33 speaks of the ones God has chosen; that is, the Christians. Verse 34 speaks of Jesus' intercession for "us"; the "us" can only be the Christian's because Jesus is not mediating for the unbeliever. Verses 35-39 speak of the Christians inseparability with God. It is clear that the whole context is speaking about Christians and no one else. The "us all" of Rom 8:32 must, then, refer to the Christians.
Before beginning the next section, I need to propose what I think is a correct supposition regarding the mind of the Jews and, therefore, bears influence on interpreting the writers of the N.T. It is this: The Jews were so narrowly minded that they considered the Messiah to be for them only, not the whole world.
That is why there are salvation verses that speak of all being saved, of a sacrifice not only for our sins, but those of the whole world (1 John 2:2). In other words, Jesus is the savior not only of the Jews, but of all people, including the Gentiles -- the whole world. Please consider the following as proof of Paul's attempt to correct the mistaken idea that the Jews alone were to be saved:
Rom 1:16: "for I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." Rom 2:9-10: "There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to every man who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." Rom 10:12: "For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him." Gal 3:28: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Incidentally, the "all" here means only the believers.) Col 3:11: "and a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew..."
1 Timothy 2:4-6: "who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all..."
First of all, Jesus is the mediator for the believers, not the unbelievers. To me, "men" in this verse can only mean the elect, the Christians. Though I understand how an Arminian would interpret this verse, the Calvinist position is more consistent with the rest of the scriptures I've examined.
Second, considering that "all" in 2Co 5:14-15, 1Co 15:22, and Rom 5:18 can only mean the Christians, it follows that when we approach verses like 1Ti 2:4-6, there is legitimacy in interpreting it in a consistent manner with the other verses; that is, the "all" is the elect. Therefore, 1Ti 2:4 can have two possible interpretations:
1) The Arminian: The "all" means every individual.
2) The Calvinist: The "all" means the Christians. But since the Arminian interpretation would contradict the interpretations found in 2Co 5:14-15, 1Co 15:22, and Rom 5:18, we are left with the Calvinist interpretation as the only legitimate one; namely, that the "all" means the Christians.
Also, there is the problem of answering how the desire of God is thwarted. The Arminian position has the desires of God frequently thwarted in addition to having the decision of God depend on the decision of man. God can only save someone if that someone makes the right choice.
2Pe 3:9: "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance."
Peter wrote this epistle to the Christians. "Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:1). Also, "This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you..." (2 Peter 3:1).
In the immediate context, verse 8, says, "But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day."
It is very clear that Peter is talking to the believers. It follows, then, that in verse 9 when it says the Lord is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish, he again is speaking of the believers. God's patience is here told to be toward the believers, not the unbelievers. God does not want any of them (the believers, the elect) to perish. And they won't, because God's wishes are not thwarted. But again if "any" is every individual then we again have the problem of God's desires being thwarted.
John 1:19: "The next day he saw Jesus coming to him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." This could be interpreted either in the Arminian or the Calvinist camp. However, if the sins of every individual are actually taken away, then why do any go to hell? After all, aren't all the sins taken away? "Ah," but you say, "they are taken away only if that person believes." The only problem with that is that Jesus' blood is sufficient to cleanse of all sin, even the sin of unbelief. Therefore, even that sin is covered. Remember, it says that the sins were taken away by the cross of Christ, not made possible to be taken away.
John 6:33: "For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world." How is "gives life" to be understood? Does it mean that the life is offered or does it mean that it is given? If something is offered, it does not mean that it is received. If it is given, then it carries with that word the implication that it is received. Only the believers receive life. The world in general is the recipient of that life.
John 6:51: "I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh." Simply partaking of the Lord's Supper does not guarantee salvation. To eat the bread of Jesus means that it must be done by faith--which only the believer, only those who are appointed to eternal life and believe (Acts 13:48), can do. This could be interpreted either in the Arminian or the Calvinist camp.
Rom 11:12,15: "Now if their transgression be riches for the world and their failure be riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be!...15For if their rejection be the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?" It is only the Christians who are reconciled. If the Jews' rejection of the Christ be the reconciliation of the world, "the world" there must mean the believers. It cannot mean that every individual is reconciled to God; otherwise, everyone would be saved, and this simply isn't true. If you say this means that reconciliation is generally applied to the world and that whoever wants to believe may, then you are ignoring what the verse says, that their rejection be the reconciliation of the world.
2Co 5:19: "namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation." Again Paul speaks of God reconciling the world to Himself. This verse is even more clear than Rom 11:12,15, for it states what the reconciliation of the world entails: not counting their trespasses against them. This clearly means salvation for only the Christians who are forgiven and reconciled. The word "world" here can only mean the Christians. Its interpretation makes the most sense in the Calvinist camp.
Hebrews 2:9: "But we do see Him who has been made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. " This verse can be interpreted in both the Arminian and Calvinistic camps. The Arminian and the Calvinist say that Christ tasted death for everyone. To the Calvinist, the death of Christ actually removes the wrath of God upon the ungodly (the elect). To the Arminian the death of Christ was for all and doesn't actually remove the wrath; it makes it possible for the wrath to be removed based upon a human condition: belief. Therefore, the choice of God depends upon the choice of the person man.
Mat 26:28: "for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins." Notice that the verse does not say for all, but for many.
John 10:11: "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep." and John 10:15: "even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep." Both these verses specifically state that Jesus laid His life down for the sheep (Christians) as opposed to the goats (non-Christians). These verses are best interpreted in the Calvinist camp. Frankly, I don't see how this could be interpreted in the Arminian sense at all.
John 17:9: "I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine." Jesus is making a distinction in His prayers to the Father in regard to who is being asked for. It is the ones whom the Father gives to the Son that are being prayed for. The whole of John 17 bears this out. Jesus is not praying for everyone. His prayers are "limited."
Acts 20:28: "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood." This could be interpreted either in the Arminian or the Calvinist camp but makes more sense in the Calvinist one. It was the church that was purchased with the blood. The unbeliever was not purchased. Also, this shows that there was a result, a direct result to the sacrifice: the church was purchased, not made possible to be purchased. It occurred. It happened because of the atonement. The Arminian might say that the purchase made by the blood becomes effectual only after the person believes in Jesus. But this is a problem because then the sacrifice of Christ must await validation and efficacy depending upon what people do. I see that as a problem because the infinite value of Christ's blood accomplished what it was shed for; it purchased the church.
Eph 5:25-27: "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her." This could be interpreted either in the Arminian or the Calvinist camp but makes more sense in the Calvinist one. Jesus gave Himself up for the church, not the unbelievers.
Rom 8:32: "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with him freely give us all things?" I addressed this verse above. The "all" here can only mean the believers. Paul is speaking of the saved which is why he says that God will "freely give us all things".
Isaiah 53:12: "Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, and He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many and interceded for the transgressors." Obviously this speaks of a limited sacrifice, that Jesus bore the sin of many, not all. How does the Arminian interpret this passage?
Heb 9:28: "so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him." Again, another verse that says that Jesus bore the sins of many, not all.
It seems clear that God sometimes uses words differently than we do. When we examine the scriptures, we see that "all" when used in the context of salvation can be interpreted in at least two ways: 1) It can only mean the elect, 2) it can mean everyone. As I mentioned above, when two sets of related scriptures have various interpretations and there are a few that can only be interpreted one way, then it seems best to interpret all the scriptures in such a way so that they agree.
When God wants all men to be saved, they are. God predestines. He died for those He predestined. And He has been working from all eternity to atone for, sanctify, and glorify His elect. It will occur because God has ordained it so.
Matt Slick 3/26/92