In regards to salvation, predestination is the biblical teaching that God alone is the One who chooses who is saved (Eph. 1:4-5; 2 Thess.
2:13), that He ordains the means, the time, and the circumstances of salvation (Eph. 1:11; Acts 13:48) and that without His predestination,
no one would ever be saved (John 6:65). 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 (Jer. 17:9; Rom. 3:10-12; 6:14-20; Eph. 2:3). 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 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 Tim. 2:3-4, NASB). 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 show you
from scripture that the "all" in at least three important verses that deal with salvation means only 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, the Christians.
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 sinful free will, to choose or reject God and that Jesus paid the sin debt 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. This is to retain
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 their behalf."
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) died..."
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 and given to the Son
(John 6:37). Therefore, the "all" to Him is the all for which He intended the death of Christ to atone.
Sometimes God uses words differently than we do
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 hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me," (John 10:27);
"...The Lord knows those who are his," (2 Tim. 2:19); "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he
who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 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?' 23 "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you;
DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS," (Matt. 7:21-23). Of course, God knows who everyone is,
He is omniscient (1 John 3:20). But the way He is using the word 'know' 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) (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, not unbelievers. We will be made alive with Christ: "Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His
power," (1 Cor. 6:14); "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised
imperishable, and we will be changed," (1 Cor. 15:52).
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. 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 is:
so therefore as through one offense into all men into condemnation, so also through one righteous deed into
all men into justification of life"
So, therefore, as through one offense, into all men into condemnation,
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
derived from the context. Since there isn't a verb close enough in the previous verses to borrow and that would fit appropriately, one from
the immediate context must be derived. A smoothed-out version would be:
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 NASB uses it). The offense of Adam
resulted in condemnation to all men. No one disputes that. Adam represented all his people (everybody 1 Cor. 15:22) in the Garden of Eden.
When he sinned, we fell with him. There was a result, an actual result of 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 is joined with "so also." 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
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 1 Cor. 15:45) brought
justification to all. That is what the text says, despite the apparent problem of "all people being justified." (But, there isn't a problem
if we understand the second 'all' to be those given to Jesus by the Father per John 6:37-40)
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, 46), 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 a good translation, but in this verse, it sacrifices the literalness needed to draw out this aspect of biblical teaching.
Furthermore, if the verb phrase "that brings" is in the second part, it should also be in the first part of the verse because the verse is
two identical thoughts: one man represented those 'in' him (Federal Headship - see Rom. 6:6,8; Heb. 7:7-10). 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 that they imposed upon the text. 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. (And no, this verse does
not teach the heresy of universalism.)
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 (See John 6:37-40 for the "all" that are given to Jesus). 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, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw
all men to Myself.”
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
<39">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 to these things? If God
is for us, who is against us?32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over
for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a
charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns?
Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.
35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or
nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written, “For Your
sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come,
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 Christians 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 narrow 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. 5 For there is one God, and one mediator
also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the
testimony given at the proper time."
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:
- The Arminian: The "all" means every individual.
- 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
2 Peter 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 1:29, "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.”
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 will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”
Simply partaking in 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.
Romans 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!...15 For 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 Christ is 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 is the reconciliation of the world.
2 Corinthians 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.
Matthew 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 You have
given Me; for they are Yours."
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 "limited."
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.
Ephesians 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
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?" 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 body 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?
Hebrews 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 so.
Matt Slick 3/26/92