As I was reading "The Bondage of the Will," by Martin Luther (translated into a language I understand by J.I. Packer and O.R. Johnson), one thing that I really appreciated was Luther's understanding and respect for the word "all."
Now, the word "all" refers to different qualities in different contexts, and that's important to remember. For instance, saying "I am holding all the money that I own" refers to a smaller quantity of money than does the statement "My parents own all the money in the world." The word "all" is used to delineate or refer to everything within a particular set of boundaries.
Sometimes this set of boundaries is stated very clearly: "I own all the crayons in this box."
Sometimes this set of boundaries is stated in an implicit, but obvious, way: "You guys ate all the pizza (that our parents bought and brought home tonight)!!!"
No one would accidentally suppose (unless they had a learning disability of some sort) that the above remark was an accusations that the "guys" had eaten all the pizza in the whole world, or even in the whole state.
Now, if the set of boundaries is meant to be implicit, but is not clear, then it's poor communication, a bad joke, or just an attempt to get on someone's nerves:
"I rescued all of your pets from your home before it burned down. Well, no, I didn't get Jojo or Fifi, but I got Doc and Jiji! When I said 'all of your pets,' I mean 'all without distinction,' not 'all without exception.' I rescued one of your dogs AND one of your cats!"
Mom -"I want all the dishes dishes in this house to be done when I get home."
time passes ...
Mom - "Why are the dishes not all done?"
Son - "I don't know what you are talking about. I did all of the dishes that were hidden in my room at the time you gave the order. I knew that you couldn't possibly have meant more than that, because you are very reasonable person."]
So, in all, if you are trying to delineate or refer to everything within a particular set of boundaries, it is your responsibility to make sure that the boundaries are plain and obvious. If the boundaries are obvious, then they can be stated implicitly, but it not, it is necessary to spell them out in explicit terms.
And all of this has to do with...? My appreciation for Martin Luther's understanding of the word "all," as referred to in his book.
"There are no obscure or ambiguous words here: the gospel of the power of God is necessary 'to Jews and Greeks', that is, to all men, that they may by believing be saved from from the wrath revealed."
"By saying 'all,' he exempts none."
"When he says 'all,' he excepts none; not the power of 'free-will', nor any worker, whether he works and endeavors or not; he is of necessity included with the rest among the 'all'."
"Speaking for myself, I am astounded that, when Paul so often uses these comprehensive terms, 'all', 'none', 'not', 'never', 'without', as in: 'they are all gone out the way, there is none righteous, none that doeth good, no, not one'; 'all are sinners condemned by the offense of one'...
I am amazed, I repeat, how it has happened that in face of these comprehensive terms and statements, others that are contrary, yes, contradictory to them should have won acceptance, such as: 'Some are not gone out of the way, are not unrighteous, are not evil, are not sinners, are not condemned; there is something in man that is good and strives after good'; as though he who strives after good, whoever he may be, is not covered by the terms: 'all', 'none', and 'not'!"
"Personally, I could find nothing, even if I wished, to advance in reply against Paul, but would be forced to myself the power of my own 'free-will', and its endeavor with it, among the 'all' and 'none' of which Paul speaks -- unless we are to introduce a new grammar, and a new mode of speech!"
"Had Paul used such an expression once, or in one place only, it might have been permissible to suspect a figure of speech and to isolate and strain the words. But as it, he uses such expressions constantly, in both affirmation and negative sentences..."
Impeccable logic! But compare this with some misguided claims of today:
Then compare those claims to what the Scripture actually says, when you allow it to speak for itself:
"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." 2 Peter 3:9"Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent" Acts 17:30"For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:3-4"And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world." 1 John 2:2
"And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world." John 12:47"Who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time" 1 Timothy 2:6"But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone." Hebrews 2:9"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” John 3:16-17
'Any', 'all', 'all men everywhere', 'all men', 'everyone,' 'the world', 'the whole world.' There are no obscure or ambiguous words here.
For those who would say "but the world only means the elect from around the world," I would say that if, when God had the word “all” penned, He had only meant "the elect," He could have easily had that written. The word "elect" was, in fact, a regular part of New Testament vocabulary (see Mt 24:24, Mk 13:22, Luke 18:7, 1 Peter 1:2, Rom 8:33, Col 3:12, 1 Tim. 5:21, Titus 1:1) This is also true of the words "some" and "few."
Yet in the whole Bible, in the whole New Testament, not once does the Bible say that God only loved the Elect. Rather, we read again and again, positive affirmation that He loves all of mankind, and not because we deserve it; but because He is who He is.
It should be fairly clear to anyone reading the text in earnest that God loved the "world" so much that He gave Christ to die for that same "world," which is the same whole "world" that is in danger of being justly condemned. The Bible says "the world," it means "the world," and it is clearly the same "world" that deserves condemnation.
God is love, God loves the world, God loves all, and God loves all men. I see throughout the Scripture a landslide of verses that clearly teach this point. There is no one, whoever he may be, who is not covered by the terms: 'all', 'everyone', and 'all men everywhere'!" With Luther, I reason "Had [the Scripture] used such an expression once, or in one place only, it might have been permissible to suspect a figure of speech and to isolate and strain the words.” But as it, the constant use of such expressions much lead us to agree with Martin Luther on at least one point: "By saying 'all,' he exempts none."
Correct usage of the word "all":
“If I were hungry, I would not tell you; For the world is Mine, and all its fullness.” Psalm 50:12