Friday, February 25, 2011

All means All and that's All All means

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!"

[Note: It is equally annoying if you say "all," and people misinterpret it to say that you "really meant" just "some." For instance:

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


drwayman said...

Is that ALL you have to say about this topic?

Skarlet said...

Dr Wayman, haha nope. That's just all for that one post. ;)

JD said...

Great post! Really good points. Course u know that I would agre with these points, but even w/o any a priori assumptions, these points are solid. Great logic!

Peter Pike said...

To the extent that you insist on the term "all" being interpreted in that manner, then you must change how the term "want" or "desires" must be defined. What I mean is this. You say that "all" means a universal all in the statement "God wants all to be saved."

I can point out many different ways in which God could actually make it so that all are saved.

Obviously, however, not all are saved.

Therefore, if *ALL* cannot be changed in your view, the only other option to change is what it means to "desire."

"God wants all to be saved, but not so much so that He wouldn't create this world in which billions of people are damned."

Indeed, if you are stringent with all, the only thing you can say is that God wants something else *OTHER* than just that everyone be saved. It would be like if I said "I want a PlayStation 3" and you look and see that I have more than enough funds to purchase one, that there are plenty of places for me to pick one up that are convenient to me and well within my power to do so, and yet I am still without a PlayStation 3. Would you not conclude, therefore, that even if it's true that on some level I want a PlayStation 3, there must be something else that I desire that's keeping me from that desire?

Skarlet said...

Peter, you bring up some great points.

You say that I “ must change how the term 'want' or 'desires' must be defined.” Now I don't have to change my definition, since the way I understand the term makes sense with the context, but I agree that many people may not see that.

Why would God not get what He wants? You give the answer right here, when you say “he only thing you can say is that God wants something else other than just that everyone be saved.” He wants something more. All things are worked in accordance with COUNSEL of God's will.(Ephesians 1:11) This also is sometimes referred to as the complex will of God.

This is exemplified by the prayer of Christ before the cross, Matthew 26:

“Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane... Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, 'My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.'

...He went away a second time and prayed, 'My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.'”

Jesus is sorrowful and requests that, if it is possible, the cup of suffering be taken away from Him. Jesus was crucified, though, despite this sentiment, because He wanted to do the will of the Father more than He wanted to avoid pain. Everything happened according to the counsel of God's will.

Anonymous said...

Romans 5:18

Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.

Which all means only some? Answer none! All means all, and that's all that all means. All died in Adam, Jesus died for all men born in Adam's likeness. If they trust in Him as their Saviour they will be forgiven.

Anonymous said...

Where do you get "if they trust in him" from Romans 5:18? If "All means all, and that's all that all means." then you must be a universalist. If Christ died for all, then ALL are saved! Or God is guilty of double jeopardy - punishing unbelievers for the sin of unbelief as well as Christ for all the sin of unbelief.


Skarlet said...

DrV, thank you for bringing up such excellent thoughts!

Now, I don't know exactly the content of [annonymous's] thoughts about Romans 5:18 emphasizing the need to trust in Christ, but I can explain the basis position there. Romans 5:18 shows a parallel between judgment coming to all men through Adam and the free gift coming to all men through Christ. Not all are saved; why? Look back a few verses to 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.”

Only those who entered into Adam's sin and death by sinning were under judgment. Notice the wording “because all sinned,” because all entered into Adam in that way. Similarly, only those who enter into Christ actually get to benefit from that free gift of salvation. Men must sin to enter the judgment of Adam, and must have faith in Christ to enter into the justification offered through the free gift from God.

Your second point is just as deep and poignant, too.

You write that “If Christ died for all, then ALL are saved!” And therefore, if Christ died for [ie took and paid for the sins of] all, then to make the non-believers take their sin and pay for it again would be double jeopardy. I think the disagreement here is just different usages of the word “for.” When we say that Christ died FOR all, we do not mean that He paid for the sins of all.

See, the death of Christ makes salvation available to every individual AND saves select individuals. Christ died to provide salvation for all, and to procure salvation for the elect. Providing salvation is the “free gift to all men” and procuring salvation is the “justification” effected for those who cease to resist the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Christ died “for” all men in that He died so that they could be saved, but He died for those who believe in that He dies so that they are saved. In case this is confusing, I'll use the Biblical analogy to explain it.

John 3:14-15
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

The analogy is the serpent in the Old Testament, it was lifted up for all those who were bitten, but only effected the healing of those who looked upon it. It provided healing for all wounded by the snakes, and procured healing only for those who looked. This is analogy to Christ being lifted up to provide salvation for all, and to procure salvation (pay for the sins of) only the elect.

Anonymous said...

Miss Skarlet, "All" obviously doesn't mean 'all people' when it is applied to salvation. God is Sovereign. He chose those He would save before He created the world. (Acts 15:18; Eph.1:4,5,11; Rom. 8:29,30; 9:11; 9:20-23; II Tim.1:9; Rev.17:8) He didn't choose (elect) "all." You mistakenly think that there are only Jews and Greeks (Gentiles), but there is another group: the [True] Church of God. (I Cor.11:32) All Jews and Gentiles are born sinners by nature. Then to those He chose, the New Birth (John 3:3,5-6) is given, with a great display of God's Power, spiritually, within that person. [a Supernatural Revelation of Himself] Peace with God is given and joy (true spiritual joy - not the joy of the world (Job 20:4-7)(John 17:13; Acts 13:52; Rom. 5:11, 14:17 & 15:13; Gal. 5:22; I Thess.1:6; I Peter 1:8; Jude 1:24) This new person (II Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15; Eph. 2:15; 4:24; Col. 3:10) is, from that point on, in the Church of the Firstborn. (Heb. 12:23) In truth, he/she IS the Church, the Body of Christ.[many other names in Scripture: (John 10:16 & Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:5; Col.1:13,18; I Tim. 3:15; Rev. 21:9 & 22:17, more)
Also given is spiritual discernability. (I Cor. 2:6,7,10-16; (Col. 1:9 & 10-14 & 3:10,11) Easily recognizable are the unregenerate, yet they do not recognize the regenerate. (I Cor. 2:15)
Since all men are born sinners at heart, [men are not sinners because they sin - they sin because they are sinners] (Rom. 5:12) and are estranged from God from birth (Ps. 58:3) God simply does not act on those not chosen before the world was created in the matter of salvation. He leaves them alone and does not act on them to save them.
The biggest lie ever told is that there is something that 'all' can do: believe in Him, give their heart and life to Him, walk down the aisle, confess, profess, repent, receive, pray, join a certain 'church' and whatever else, to obtain salvation. A lot of people have made a lot of money on that lie. The operative word here is DO. The truth is: there is nothing anyone (much less 'all') can DO to get God to perform His Saving Work on them.(Rom. 4:4,5 & 8:7,8; Eph. 2:8,9; II Tim. 1:9) We are just not profitable to God. (Job 22:2 & 35:7,8; Luke 17:10)
The Blood of Christ was (is) efficacious enough to Save all who have ever lived or will live, however, God only Saves those whose names were written in the Book of Life. (Rev. 20: 10-15 & 21:27)

Skarlet said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I agree with most of what you have written; I would repeat the parts that I agree with, except that I would just be copying and pasting 95% of what you said. So, instead of doing that, I will just let you know that I agree with all of what you wrote, with the following clarifications:

“ to those He chose, the New Birth (John 3:3,5-6) is given”

I agree that God only gives the New Birth to those who He has chosen, however we would disagree about who God chooses, since I believe that God conditionally elects people, in His sovereignty. Also, faith, Biblically, comes before regeneration (through the grace of God): “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and (then) you will be saved.”

“God simply does not act on those not chosen... He leaves them alone and does not act on them to save them.”

Well, actually the Bible teaches that God gives them grace, and sends the Holy Spirit to convict them. See Romans 1, John 16:8.

“The biggest lie ever told is that there is something that 'all' can do... The operative word here is DO. The truth is: there is nothing anyone (much less 'all') can DO to get God to perform His Saving Work on them.”

For all thing, I agree that there is nothing that we must DO. Rather, we need to CEASE to do. Cease to work, cease to try to earn salvation or save ourselves, and cease resisting God's grace. The condition is cessation of doing. Also, I agree that there is nothing, whether doing or being, that can GET God to do anything. If God wants to do something, it's on HIS terms, with HIS conditions. If God blessed the Israelites in the Old Testament, after they fulfilled a condition that He promised to bless them for, then they were not making Him do it. It was His sovereign pleasure to do so, and to give that promise.

“He didn't choose (elect) 'all.'”

I absolutely agree! My point in “all means all” is not that God elects all, for indeed, that is never found in Scripture. My point was that every time “all” is used in Scripture, whether to say that “all” have sinned or that Christ died for “all men,” it does mean all.

“'All' obviously doesn't mean 'all people' when it is applied to salvation.”

Well, I don't know how this is obvious. In all that you have written here, the only argument you made to support this point is that not all are saved (elect), which I agree with. You have not shown me from the Scripture that when it says God wants all to repent, it means He wants ALL to repent.

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Carlos Galvan said...

Good to see the interchange of ideas here between rational people.
However, it is not complete without a look at the Greek words that can be and are translated as the English "all".

It was this personal study that after years of consideration, finally pushed me over to the so called "Calvinist" side.

I hope to create a video etc of these somehow
overlooked findings to add some light to this sometimes contentious debate.

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