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It is written:
“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:3-4)
Having examined several of the passages of Scripture which Calvinists misrepresent to try and justify their teachings, let us now turn to a study of some of the Bible passages that further demonstrate the unbiblical nature of the doctrine of unconditional election.
One of the claims of the Bible is that God desires that even the most wicked would repent of their sins and be saved. This is a theme reiterated from Old to New Testaments (cf. Ezekiel 18:23; John 3:16; 2 Peter 3:9). This is made especially clear here in this passage of Paul, in which he expressly claims that God desires all men would be saved to come to the knowledge of the truth.
However, this is in contradiction to the Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election, which claims that God’s desire is to damn the vast majority of mankind, with God having predestined them to eternal damnation before they were even born.
“The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of his own will, whereby he extendeth or withholdeth mercy as he pleaseth, for the glory of his sovereign power over his creatures, to pass by, and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of his glorious justice.” (The Westminster Assembly, Edited by C. Matthew McMahon and Therese B. McMahon, The 1647 Westminster Confession of Faith With Scripture Proofs and Texts from the 1611 King James Bible, and all Subordinate Documents Included, 1667-1673 (Kindle Edition); Crossville, TN: Puritan Publishing).
Again, Calvin himself declared:
“He wrote, ‘We say, then, that Scripture clearly proves this much, that God by his eternal and immutable counsel determined once for all those whom it was his pleasure one day to admit to salvation, and those whom, on the other hand, it was his pleasure to doom to destruction.’ (John Calvin, Institutes, 3.21.5).
So, the Bible claims that God wants all men to be saved; yet Calvinism claims that God created the vast majority because He would take pleasure in their being damned in Hell.
How does the Calvinist deal with Paul’s statement that God desires “all men” to be saved?
Our Calvinist friends argue that the phrase ‘all men’ has reference to all KINDS of men, i.e., God wants people from all walks of life (including kings, leaders, etc.) to be saved.
Now, it is certainly true that God desires that all kings and people from every wal of life to be saved.
However, it is also equally clear that the phrase “all men” in 1 Timothy 2:4 has the meaning of “all mankind,” or to be more literal, “all mankind who are lost” (since the idea of salvation implies that one first be lost). So, “all men” certainly includes kings, but is not limited to them.
How do we know that the phrase “all men” means “all mankind who are lost?”
First, the context itself makes it clear that the phrase “all men” has reference to all sinners in need of redemption. Notice how Paul makes this clear:
1 Timothy 2:5-7-For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, 7 for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle—I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying—a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
Please observe that Paul introduces verse five with the Greek preposition gar, which means to introduce the meaning of a preceding statement. In other words, Paul is explaining what he has written in verse 4. With that in mind, he clearly identifies the “all men” with the description of “men,” again reiterating that Jesus had died as a ransom for “all.” The ransom again shows us that the inspired Apostle is talking about those who are condemned among mankind, i.e., sinners. Even more clear, this included Gentiles (verse 7). Clearly, Paul is teaching that Christ died for “all sinful mankind” and desires “all sinful mankind” to be saved. While this would include those in government, its’ scope goes far beyond that!
Second, when we look at the way that Paul uses the same phrase in the pastoral epistles, we see that reference is made to all sinful mankind.
1 Thessalonians 2:14-16-For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans, 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men, 16 forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost.
1 Timothy 4:10-For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.
Titus 3:2-to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.
Third, when we study the rest of Paul’s Epistles, we see that this phrase once again has reference to all sinners.
Romans 5:12-Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because ALL sinned—
Romans 12:17-Repay NO ONE evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of ALL MEN.
2 Corinthians 9:12-13-For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the SAINTS, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God, 13 while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing WITH THEM AND ALL MEN,
Notice that in many of these passages, the “all men” is set in contrast to “the saints” (i.e., the saved). When God says that He desires all men to be saved, He makes it clear that His desire is for every sinner to be redeemed.
In fact, the evidence is so clear, that one scholar has observed:
“The Greek word pas, meaning “all” or “everyone,” which is found in 1 Tim 2: 4 and in 2 Pet 3: 9, in all the standard Greek dictionaries means “all”! 28 Those who would like to translate the word pas as something other than a synonym for “all” should ponder the theological cost of such a move merely because it disagrees with their theological system. For example, Paul uses the same term in 2 Tim 3: 16, when he declares that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Tim 3: 16 KJV). He does not mean that God inspires merely some selected portions of Scripture but that God inspires all Scripture. Likewise, the Greek word pas (“ all”), used in the prologue to John, makes the enormous claim about creation that “all things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1: 3 KJV). Jesus was not involved in merely creating a few trees and hills here and there, but all things were created by Him. We see the word again in Ephesians when Paul looks toward the eschaton and claims that in the fullness of time will be gathered “all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth” (Eph 1: 10 KJV). Thus, an accurate doctrine of the creation of the world, the inspiration of Scripture, and the consummation of the world hinge on an accurate rendering of the Greek word pas as “all.” So does the doctrine of salvation—that God desires the salvation of all people and has made an atonement through Christ that is sufficient for all people. This same all-inclusive Greek word pas (translated as “everyone,” “all,” or “whosoever”) is used repeatedly in the New Testament to offer an invitation to all people who would respond to God’s gracious initiative with faith and obedience (italics in the following Scripture passages are mine): “Therefore whoever (pas, hostis) hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matt 7: 24 NKJV; see Luke 6: 47). “Whosoever (pas hostis) therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever (hostis an) shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” (Matt 10: 32–33 KJV; see Luke 12: 8). “Come to Me, all (pantes) who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11: 28 NASB; see Luke 7: 37). John the Baptist “came as a witness, to testify about the light, so that all (pantes) might believe through him” (John 1: 7 HCSB). Jesus is the true Light “who gives light to everyone” (panta) (John 1: 9 HCSB). “Whoever (pas) believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever (pas) believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3: 15–16 NKJV). “Everyone (pas) who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever (hos an) drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life” (John 4: 13–14 NASB). “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone (pas) who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day” (John 6: 40 NASB). “Everyone (pas) who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11: 26 NASB). “I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone (pas) who believes in Me will not remain in darkness” (John 12: 46 NASB). “And it shall be that everyone (pas, hos an) who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2: 21 NASB). “Of Him [Jesus] all (pantes) the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone (panta) who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins” (Acts 10: 43 NASB). “As it is written: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, and whoever (pas) believes on Him will not be put to shame’ ” (Rom 9: 33 NKJV). “For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever (pas) believes in Him will not be disappointed’ ” (Rom 10: 11 NASB). “Whoever (pas) denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2: 23 NASB). “Whoever (pas) believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him” (1 John 5: 1 NASB). Many more of these broad invitations are found throughout Scripture. In addition, the New Testament often uses a form of hostis, which when combined with an or ean is an indefinite relative pronoun best translated as “anyone,” “whosoever,” or “everyone” and refers to the group as a whole, with a focus on each individual member of the group.” (David L. Allen & Steve W. Lemke, Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique Of Five-Point Calvinism, 123-125 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN; B&H Publishing Company)
The Calvinistic doctrine of unconditional election is thus shown again to have no part in the Word of God, and clearly refuted by it.