All Men Saved
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" (1 Tim. 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 2 Cor. 5:14, 1 Cor. 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
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" (2 Tim. 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)
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,"
(2 Tim. 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!'" (Matt. 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; 1 Cor. 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" (1 Cor. 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"
(1 Cor. 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
so therefore as through one offense into all men into
condemnation, so also through one righteous deed into all men into justification of
So, therefore, as through one offense, into all men into
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
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 1 Cor. 15:45) brought justification to
all--that is what the text says, despite the apparent problem of "all people being
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 (Matt 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
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 this is still not an accurate translation. They have
inserted an interpretation into the translation and not let it say what it
actually 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 (Phil. 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 (1 Cor.
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 (1 Cor. 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"
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
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 2 Cor. 5:14-15,
1 Cor. 15:22, and Rom. 5:18 can only mean the Christians, it follows that when we approach
verses like 1 Tim. 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, 1 Tim. 2:4
can have two possible interpretations:
1) The Arminian: The "all" means every
2) The Calvinist: The "all" means the Christians.
But since the Arminian interpretation would contradict the interpretations found in 2 Cor.
5:14-15, 1 Cor. 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.
2 Pet. 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.
2 Cor. 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.
Matt. 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
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
Matt Slick 3/26/92
Return to the
Copyright by Matthew J. Slick, B.A., M. Div., 1998-2006
I welcome your comments via E-mail at email@example.com