Serving Christians Seeking to Live a Holy Life

"ALL, Who Are They?"

Leon L. Combs, Ph.D.

October 4, 1998

What does "all" mean when used in the Scripture pertaining to salvation? The true meaning of words is critical in our understanding of concepts. The people who control the meaning of words can control a society. To say that words don't have any absolute meaning is also extremely dangerous. "All" is a very pivotal word. A dividing wall is formed between some denominations based upon the very small English word "all". I recently heard a person say that if God chose some for Heaven and also chose some for Hell, then he did not want any part of such a God. I thought that such a conclusion was a very dangerous statement and concern about it precipitated this study. Such a statement is on the borderline of saying that "my interpretation of God is the only one in which I am interested" and such an attitude could be idolatry. The person then went on to back his interpretation with the verses using "all" which we will look at here. The person also sarcastically said that John 3:16 does not say that "For God so loved the chosen ..." At this point I was very uneasy and began to wonder if lightening might be ready to strike. We must allow God to be God and man to be man. It is certain that we all have some wrong concepts about God. We can't totally understand the mind of God and we must be very careful about trying to put God in a box. When I go to be with Him, I am certain that I will have many surprises, but I am willing to let God be God and I will be joyful at being in His presence, regardless of how different He is than what I think He is now - whatever His attributes, I want Him - the one and only God as revealed by His creation and by His Word - as my God. There are mysteries which will remain mysteries until we are with Him:

Deut 29:29 "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.
Rev 10:7" but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then the mystery of God is finished, as He preached to His servants the prophets."

Also look at the following: Deut 32:39 "See now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded, and it is I who heal; And there is no one who can deliver from My hand."

God is God and He operates His Creation as He chooses. We may not humanly like some of the rules, but that is the way "the ole spheroid rebounds".

We do have to interpret Scripture in order to apply it to our lives. There are some important rules to use in studying Scripture:
  1. We must never take a verse out of context. Always ask "What is the flow of thought of the entire discussion?" Remember that there were no chapter and verse numbers originally. Try to read the verse as a flow of thought surrounding the verse. Related to this rule is to always know to what group of people the verse is written. We must know whether the verse is written concerning the lives of Christians or non-Christians.
  2. In looking for meaning in Scripture verses it is critical to remember that Scripture interprets Scripture. So any understanding that we come to about the use of a particular word must stand up under the same application of understanding to other Scripture verses using the same word.
  3. We also must go back to the original language to make sure that the same word is indeed the same word. For people, like me, who are not experts in Greek and Hebrew, the study of the use of the original language can be extremely difficult and we must rely upon real experts. However to say that the English interpretation in all Bibles is inspired seems to be going beyond what we mean by the inspired Word of God.
So what about this word "all"? There are basically three Bible verses used by people who stress that Jesus indeed offers a propitiation for the sins of every person who ever lived, is living, or will live. Those verses are the following:

1Tim 2:4 "who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."
1Tim 2:6 "who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony borne at the proper time."
Titus 2:11 "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,"

From a very useful web site (http://home.sol.no/~ggunners/bibel/index.htm), I found the following information concerning the word "all". The information from this site is below with a quote from the famous Baptist preacher C. H. Spurgeon:

3956 pas {pas}
including all the forms of declension ; adj
See: TDNT ? 5:886,795

AV ? all 748, all things 170, every 117, all men 41, whosoever 31, everyone 28, whole 12, all manner of 11, every man 11, no + 3756 9, every thing 7, any 7, whatsoever 6, whosoever + 3739 + 302 3, always + 1223 3, daily + 2250 2, any thing 2, no + 3361 2, not tr 7, misc 26; 1243

1) individually
1a) each, every, any, all, the whole, everyone, all things, everything
2) collectively
2a) some of all types

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 ..."

With this insight and the following Scripture let's look more at applications of "all".

Matt 26:28 for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.
Mark 10:45 "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
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.

(The "bolding" of "many" is mine for emphasis.) If we are pushing the belief that Christ died for every person who was, is, or will be born then what do we do with the above including Heb 9:28 which says "the sins of many". Do we say that "many" means every person? Rather than the verse saying "sins of many" why does it not say "sins of all" if the "all" means every person? "Many" is a very different word than "all". The Greek word "polus" is translated as the English word "many" and it is the Greek word "pas" which is translated as the English word "all". The Greek word "polus" is used many times in Scripture and a few other uses are shown below:

Mat 3:7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
Mat 7:22 "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?'
Mat 8:16 And when evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon?possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill
Mat 9:10 And it happened that as He was reclining at the table in the house, behold many tax gatherers and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples.

These verses are enough for us to understand that "many" means "some" and certainly not "all" so Heb 9:28 does not back up the theology of Jesus dying for every person. We need to keep this Scripture in mind as we look at the others.

Now what about 1 Tim 2:4? I have a lot of trouble with interpreting this to mean that it is God's desire for every person ever born to be saved. If that is the meaning then certainly God's desire will not be overcome by the "free will" of any one person who stubbornly refuses to "come to Christ". God is sovereign so if His desire is for every single person who is ever born to be saved then every person will be saved, and we then have the doctrine of universalism which Scripture repeatedly repudiates. So if this verse is not teaching universalism, what does it teach? It seems that the only meaning which is consistent with all Scripture is if the "all men" means people from every race - Gentiles and Jews as stated below:

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.

The fact that salvation was intended for Jew and Greek was a great revelation at the time and many people, even Peter, had a hard time with that concept.

What about 1 Tim 2:6? I have had a lot of trouble with this verse for some time, for if it means that Christ died for every person ever born, then that means that the work of Christ was ineffective for the person who refuses to accept such a work for personal application. If any work of God is ineffective then God is not Sovereign and then we don't have God. If we apply the same meaning as for 1 Tim 2:4 then such a problem disappears. This interpretation is also backed up by the following Scriptures:

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.
COL 3:11 -- a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.

The Scripture is certainly not saying that, in the world, there is neither Jew nor Greek for certainly the world has great distinction among races. What the Scripture is saying, which was exceedingly good news to the Greek, is that God is not a respecter of persons. "All" in Gal 3:28 certainly does not mean every person ever born, for every person ever born are certainly not "one in Christ Jesus", but only those who have Jesus as Lord.

What about Titus 2:11? Again, it seems apparent based upon the above studies that "all" means people from every race - not just the Jews and not just the worldly masters, but all kinds of people. To take this verse in context we need to note that it begins with "For". So for what reason does it begin with "For"? What preceded this verse? The three verses above are talking about the poor bondservants toward whom the religious establishment would have no compassion. This verse then tells us that God offers to that category of man also the same salvation as He offers to the rich.

Now let's utilize the same logic with another Scripture:

2Cor 5:14 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died;
2Cor 5:15 and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

So what is this telling us? The reference is to the Jew who thought that they were the only ones who were right before God because of their works. Paul is telling them that since Adam died for every category of people, then every person who ever lived was born dead (Eph 2:1) - even the Jews. And since all categories of people are born spiritually dead - even the Jew - all categories of people require the imputation of their sins upon Christ and the imputation of Christ's righteousness to them in order for them to become spiritually alive. Paul is telling them that Jesus Christ died for every category of people - Jew, Greek, rich, poor, male, female - and as I said previously this was a great revelation of one of the mysteries of God. This was especially hard for the Jew to accept since they thought that they were righteous before God and not spiritually dead.

Finally there is 2 Peter 3:9 to consider:
"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."

This verse is written to Christians and the reference is to the Day of the Lord. As with previous logic, if this verse means that God does not wish for any person anywhere to perish then we have universalism. Obviously the reference to "any to perish" and "for all to come" is referring to the Christians to whom this is written and is another statement of the "perseverance of the saints".

If we accept the above then much controversy goes away. So why do people emotionally stick to the interpretation that God really wants every single person to be saved? Probably because it is related to the concept of "chosen" which is a topic for another writing. If Jesus only died for many, then there are some for whom He did not die which means that God chose some people for Christ's redemptive works, and the others are personally accountable to God for their justice. I think the interlinking of "all" with "chosen" is the real issue of the battle for the truth. As I mentioned at the beginning of this issue, it was the linking of "chosen" with "all" that precipitated this study. We will examine "chosen", its relationship to "all", and its relation to the great commission in another issue.


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