THE TERM "ALL" IS USED IN VARIOUS SENSES
C.H. Spurgeon from a sermon on Particular Redemption
... "the whole world has gone after him" Did all the world go after Christ? "then went all Judea, and were baptized of him in Jordan." Was all Judea, or all Jerusalem, baptized in Jordan? "Ye are of God, little children", and the whole world lieth in the wicked one". Does the whole world there mean everybody? The words "world" and "all" are used in some seven or eight senses in Scripture, and it is very rarely the "all" means all persons, taken individually. The words are generally used to signify that Christ has redeemed some of all sorts —some Jews, some Gentiles, some rich, some poor, and has not restricted His redemption to either Jew or Gentile ...
A Boettner Reformed Doctrine
In like manner the word "all" is unmistakably used in different senses in Scripture. In some cases it certainly does not mean every individual; e.g., of John the Baptist it was said, "And there went out unto him all the country of Judea, and all they of Jerusalem; and they were baptised of him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins." Mark 1:5. After Peter and John had healed the lame man at the door of the temple, we read that "all men glorified God for that which was done," Acts 4:21. Jesus told His disciples that they would be "hated of all men" for His name's sake, Luke 21:17. Paul was accused of "teaching all men everywhere against the people, and the law, and this place" (the temple), Acts 21:28. When Jesus said, "And if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself," John 12:32, He plainly meant not every individual of mankind, for history shows that not every individual has been drawn to Him. He certainly does not draw the many millions of heathens who die in utter ignorance of the true God. What He meant was, that a large multitude from all nations and classes would be saved; and this is what we see coming to pass. In Heb 2:9, we read that Jesus tasted death "for every man." The original Greek, however, does not use the word "man" here at all, but simply says, "for every." So in principle, if the meaning is not to be limited to those who are actually saved, why limit it to men? Why not include fallen angels, even the Devil himself, and the irrational animals?
L Berkhof Systematic Theology
Closely related to the passages to which we referred in the preceding, are those in which it is said that Christ died for all men, Rom 5:18; 1Co 15:22; 2Co 5:14; 1Ti 2:4,6; Tit 2:11; Heb 2:9; 2Pe 3:9. Naturally, each of these passages must be considered in the connection in which it is found. For instance, the context clearly shows that the "all" or "all men" of Rom 5:18, and 1Co 15:22 includes only those who are in Christ, as contrasted with all who are in Adam. If the word "all" in these passages is not interpreted in a limited sense, they would teach, not merely that Christ made salvation possible for all men, but that He actually saves all without exception. Thus the Arminian would again be forced into the camp of the absolute Universalist, where he does not want to be. A similar limitation must be applied in the interpretation of 2Co 5:14, and Heb 2:9, cf. verse 10. Otherwise they would prove too much, and therefore prove nothing.
In all these passages "all" are simply all those who are in Christ. In the case of Tit 2:11, which speaks of the appearance of the grace of God, "bringing salvation to all men," the context clearly shows that "all men" really means all classes of men. If the "all" is not restricted, this passage too would teach universal salvation. The passages in 1Ti 2:4-6, Heb 2:9; 2Pe 3:9 refer to the revealed will of God that both Jew and Gentiles should be saved, but imply nothing as to the universal intent of the atonement. Even Moses Stuart, who believes in universal atonement, admits that in these cases the word "all" cannot be taken in a universal sense.
John OWEN Death of Death
Now, as we have said of the word world, so we may of the word all, wherein much strength is placed, and many causeless boastings are raised from it. That it is nowhere affirmed in the Scripture that Christ died for all men, or gave himself a ransom for all men, much less for all and every man, we have before declared. That he "gave himself a ransom for all" is expressly affirmed, 1Ti 2:6. But now, who this all should be, whether all believers, or all the elect, or some of all sorts, or all of every sort, is in debate. Our adversaries affirm the last; and the main reason they bring to assert their interpretation is from the importance of the word itself: for, that the circumstances of the place, the analogy of faith, and other helps for exposition, do not at all favour their gloss, we shall show when we come to the particular places urged. For the present let us look upon the word in its usual acceptation in the Scripture, and search whether it always necessarily requires such an interpretation.
That the word all, being spoken of among all sorts of men, speaking, writing, any way expressing themselves, but especially in holy writ, is to be taken either collectively for all in general, without exception, or distributively for some of all sorts, excluding none, is more apparent than that it can require any illustration. That it is sometimes taken in the first sense, for all collectively, is granted, and I need not prove it, they whom we oppose affirming that this is the only sense of the word,- though I dare boldly say it is not once in ten times so to be understood in the usage of it through the whole book of God; but that it is commonly, and indeed properly, used in the latter sense, for some of all sorts, concerning whatsoever it is affirmed, a few instances, for many that might be urged, will make it clear. Thus then, ye have it, John 12:32, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all unto me" That we translate it "all men" as in other places (for though I know the sense way be the same, yet the word men being not in the original, but only all), I cannot approve. But who, I pray, are these all? Are they all and every one? Then are all and every one drawn to Christ, made believers, and truly converted, and shall be certainly saved; for those that come unto him by his and his Father's drawing, "he will in no wise cast out, "John 6:37. All then can here be no other than many, some of all sorts, no sort excluded, according as the word is interpreted in Rev 5:9, "Thou hast redeemed us out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation." These are the all he draws to him: which exposition of this phrase is with me of more value and esteem than a thousand glosses of the sons of men. So also, Luke 11:42, where our translators have made the word to signify immediately and properly (for translators are to keep close to the propriety and native signification of every word) what we assert to be the right interpretation of it; for they render RHETOS (which expressly is "every herb"), "all manner of herbs," taking the word (as it must be) distributively, for herbs of all sorts, and not for any individual herb, which the Pharisees did not, could not tithe. And in the very same sense is the word used again, Luke 18:12, "I give tithes of all that I possess;" where it cannot signify every individual thing, as is apparent. Most evident, also, is this restrained signification of the word, Acts 2:17, "I will pour out of my Spirit, upon all flesh" which, whether it compriseth every man or no, let every man judge, and not rather men of several and sundry sorts. The same course of interpretation as formerly is followed by our translators, Acts 10:12, rendering (literally, "all beasts or four-footed creatures,") "all manner of beasts;" or beasts of sundry several sorts. In the same sense also must it be understood, Rom 14:2, "One believeth that he may eat all things;" that is, what he pleaseth of things to be eaten of. See, moreover, 1Co 1:5. Yea, in that very chapter where men so eagerly contend that the word all is to be taken for all and every one (though fruitlessly and falsely, as shall be demonstrated),--namely, 1Ti 2:4, where it is said that "God will have all men to be saved,"--in that very chapter confessedly the word is to be expounded according to the sense we give, namely, verse 8, "I will, therefore, that men pray in every place," which, that it cannot signify every individual place in heaven, earth, and hell, is of all confessed, and needeth no proof; no more than when our Saviour is said to cure "every disease", as Mat 9:35, there is need to prove that he did not cure every disease of every man, but only all sorts of diseases.
Sundry other instances might be given to manifest that this is the most usual and frequent signification of the word all in the holy Scripture; and, therefore, from the base word nothing can be inferred to enforce an absolute unlimited universality of all individuals to be intimated thereby. The particular places insisted on we shall afterward consider. I shall conclude all concerning these general expressions that are used in the Scripture about this business in these observations:--
First, The word all is certainly and unquestionably sometimes restrained, and to be restrained, to all of some sorts, although the qualification be not expressed which is the bond of the limitation: so for all believers, 1Co 15:22; Eph 4:6; Rom 5:18, "The free gift came upon all men to justification of life:" which "all men," that are so actually justified, are no more nor less than those that are Christ's,--that is, believers; for certainly justification is not without faith.
Secondly, The word all is sometimes used for some of all sorts, Jer 31:34. The Hebrew word kowl is by Paul rendered all, Heb 8:11; so John 12:32; 1Ti 2:1-3; which is made apparent by the mention of "kings," as one sort of people there intended. And I make no doubt but it will appear to all that the word must be taken in one of these senses in every place where it is used in the business of redemption; as shall be proved.
Thirdly, Let a diligent comparison be made between the general expressions of the New with the predictions of the Old Testament, and they will be found to be answerable to, and expository of, one another; the Lord affirming in the New that that was done which in the Old be foretold should be done. Now, in the predictions and prophecies of the Old Testament, that all nations, all flesh, all people, all the ends, families, or kindreds of the earth, the world, the whole earth, the isles, shall be converted, look up to Christ, come to the mountain of the Lord, and the like,, none doubts but that the elect of God in all nations are only signified, knowing that in them alone those predictions have the tenth of their accomplishment. And why should the same expressions used in the Gospel, and many of them aiming directly to declare the fulfilling of the other, be wire-drawn to a large extent, so contrary to the mind of the Holy Ghost? In fine, as when the Lord is said to wipe tears from all faces, it hinders not but that the reprobates shall be cast out to eternity where there is weeping and wailing, etc.; so when Christ is said to die for all, it hinders not but that those reprobates may perish to eternity for their sins, without any effectual remedy intended for them,
Now, as we have said of the word world, so may of the word all, wherein much strength is placed, and many causeless boastings are raised from it. That it is nowhere affirmed in the Scripture that Christ died for all men, or gave himself a ransom for all men, much less for all and every man, we have before declared. That he "gave himself a ransom for all" is expressly affirmed, I Tim. ii. 6. But now, who this all should be, whether all believers, or all the elect, or some of all sorts, or all of every sort, is in debate. Our adversaries affirm the last; and the main reason they bring to assert their interpretation is from the importance of the word itself: for, that the circumstances of the place, the analogy of faith, and other helps for exposition, do not at all favour their gloss, we shall show when we come to the particular places urged. For the present, let us look upon the word in its usual acceptation in the Scripture, and search whether it always necessarily requires such an interpretation.