The Staunch Calvinist

"Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God." - Jonathan Edwards

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A Review of RC Sproul's Willing to Believe & Thoughts on Free Will

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1 Timothy 4:10, 'Savior of all men'

...ially of believers" The title "savior" is used quite often in the Pastoral Letters (cf. 1 Tim. 1:1; 2:3; 2 Tim. 1:10; Titus 1:3-4; 2:10-13; 3:4,6). In earlier chapters of 1 Timothy it is used of God as the Redeemer, potentially, of all mankind (cf. 1 Tim. 2:4,6; Luke 2:11; John 1:29; 4:42; Rom. 5:18-19; 2 Pet. 3:9). See full note at 2 Tim. 1:10. Possibly because of the little phrase "especially of believers" (where one would theologically expect "only") it may be used in its OT sense of Elohim, who is "protector" or "provider" of all life on earth (cf. Matt. 5:45; Acts 17:28).

A short comment is made by RC Sproul in the ESV Reformation Bible:[2]

4:10 Savior of all people. The general call to repentance and salvation is extended to all people (Matt. 11:28). See “Definite Redemption” at John 10:15.

especially of those who believe. Salvation is God’s gift, in particular to those who trust in His provision in Christ (Matt. 22:14; Rom. 8:30).

The ESV Study Bible explains:[3]

1 Tim. 4:10 to this end. The goal of Paul’s labors is that people attain “godliness” (v. 8) and its eternal “value.” Toil and strive is typical of Paul’s description of gospel ministry (cf. 5:17; Rom. 16:6, 12; 1 Cor. 15:10; 16:16; Gal. 4:11; Eph. 4:28). The statement that God is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe could seem to teach universalism, that every person will eventually go to heaven. However, the rest of Scripture clearly denies this idea (see note on 1 Tim. 2:4). There are several other possible explanations for this phrase: (1) It means that Christ died for all people, but only those who believe in him are saved. (2) It means he is offered to all people, though not all receive him. (3) It means “the Savior of all people, namely, those who believe” (a different translation of Gk. malista, based on extrabiblical examples). (4) It means “the helper of all people,” taking Greek Sōtēr, “Savior,” to refer not to forgiveness of sins but to God’s common grace by which God helps and protects people in need. (5) It means “the Savior of all kinds of people, not Jews only but both Jews and Greeks.” In any case, the emphasis is on God’s care for the unsaved world, and in the flow of the letter Paul is stressing once more (cf. 2:3–5) that God’s will that people would be saved is the basis of the universal mission (cf. Matt. 28:19–20). On God as “Savior,” see note on 2 Tim. 1:8–10.

The ESV MacArthur Study Bible provides a commentary about this verse:[4]

1 Tim. 4:10 hope. Believers are saved in hope and live and serve in light of that hope of eternal life (Titus 1:2; 3:7; see note on Rom. 5:2). Working to the point of exhaustion and suffering rejection and persecution are acceptable because believers understand they are doing God’s work—which is the work of salvation. That makes it worth all of the sacrifices (Phil. 1:12–18, 27–30; 2:17; Col. 1:24–25; 2 Tim. 1:6–12; 2:3–4, 9–10; 4:5–8). the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. Paul is obviously not teaching universalism, that all people will be saved in the spiritual a...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 9: Of Free Will - Commentary

Chapter 9: Of Free Will

I would like to take a look at the freedom of will endued to us by God. Is it libertarian free, which most of the non-Reformed find essential for love? Is it another kind of freedom? Does our freedom mean that God is not sovereign? Does God ordain our free actions? These are some questions that we’ll have to wrestle with. For this study and my position on it, I am greatly indebted to the following authors:

  • Jonathan Edwards – The Freedom of the Will
  • R.C. Sproul – Willing to Believe (see review)
  • Thaddeus J. Williams – Love, Freedom, and Evil: Does Authentic Love Require Free Will?
  • Scott Christensen - What about Free Will?: Reconciling Our Choices with God's Sovereignty

Calvinists have always been leveled the charge that our understanding of God’s absolute micro-managing sovereignty makes men as puppets and robots. One wonders what the reason was for the Westminster, Savoy and 1689 to offer a chapter on free will if they thought that people were merely puppets and robots as many critics like to mock Calvinism.

In section 1, we will have our longest discussion of the will. There, I hope with Edwards’ Freedom of the Will, to lay the understanding of the human will as believed by Calvinists, which I believe happens to be biblical and logical. I have chosen to do this for two purposes: 1) I want to understand Edwards' position better first hand from him. Edwards is difficult to read and understand and sometimes you have to read sentences and paragraphs over and over or look somewhere for an explanation to understand what he's getting at. 2) And I would like you to understand Edwards’ position on the will which is the commonly held view by Calvinists. In the following sections, we will try to lay some things concerning man's will in the four states, from innocence until glory.


§1 God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty and power of acting upon choice

  1. God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty and power of acting upon choice, that it is neither forcednor by any necessity of nature determined to do good or evil. 1
    1. Matt.  17:12; James 1:14; Deut. 30:19[1]

The will of man, by definition and nature, is endued...with that natural liberty and power of acting upon choice. This is also one of those things which set us apart from the lower creation. Paragraph 1 does not speak about Adam's will before the Fall; paragraph 2 will do that. Rather, in paragraph 1 the will of man is spoken of generally without reference to it being enslaved to righteousness or sin. It is by nature free. What does this freedom consist in? That is is neither forced, nor by any necessity of nature determined to do good or evil. Man is not a robot as many non-Calvinists like to caricature Calvinism. No one has done something because they were forced by God in their wills to do so. Rather, they acted with that natural liberty of will which we are endued with. The second thing that the Confession mentions in connection to this natural liberty is that the will is not determined by nature. By nature, the Confession is referring to the natural world or what we call the laws of nature. There are no physical or natural laws forcing man to do good or evil. But as we will soon discover another kind of nature is important for the will, that is, the nature of man.


God Ordains Human Actions

It is clear from chapter 3 that God is sovereign and ordains even human actions. T...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 32: Of the Last Judgment - Commentary

Chapter 32: Of the Last Judgment

Now we come to the last chapter of the Confession, which deals with the last day, particularly, the Last Judgment. Is there a Day of Judgment? How will we be judged? Will believers be judged? Will angels also be judged? What is the relation of works to the judgment? What is Hell? Is it never-ending torment or annihilation? Who is the one who torments? How is God's glory manifested in Heaven and Hell?


§1 All Persons That Have Lived Upon The Earth Shall Appear Before The Tribunal Of Christ

  1. God hath appointed a day wherein he will judge the world in righteousness, by Jesus Christ; to whom all power and judgment is given of the Father; in which day, not only the apostate angels shall be judged, but likewise all persons that have lived upon the earth shall appear before the tribunal of Christ, to give an account of their thoughts, words, and deeds, and to receive according to what they have done in the body, whether good or evil. 4
    1. John 5:22, 27; Acts 17:31[1]
    2. 1 Cor. 6:3; Jude 6
    3. Matt. 16:27; 25:31-46; Acts 17:30-31; Rom. 2:6-16; 2 Thess. 1:5-10; 2 Peter 3:1-13; Rev. 20:11-15
    4. 2 Cor. 5:10, 1 Cor. 4:5, Matt. 12:36

God has determined and appointed a day wherein He will judge the world in righteousness, by Jesus Christ (Acts 17:30-31), Who has all power and judgment...given to Him by the Father (John 5:22). It is certain that this day will come because God has determined and appointed in it. On this day, not only the apostate angels (Jude 6; 1Cor. 6:3) but also all persons that have lived upon the earth shall appear before the tribunal of Christ (2Cor. 5:10). Even Christians will have to appear before the tribunal of Christ. What is the reason of their appearance? It is to give an account of their thoughts, words, and deeds (Matt. 12:36) and to be rewarded according to what they have done...whether good or evil (e.g. Rev. 20:11-15). God will reward us to take rewards away according to the works which we have done in the body. All our good works have been washed away by the blood of Christ and rewarded by grace. But there will be some who will lose rewards because of their works. The wicked will be condemned by their works because they demonstrate their nature as fallen and wicked.


The Day of Judgment is not the day which will determine the destinies of men; their destinies were fixed at the time they died (Heb 9:27; see here). We deny the doctrine of soul-sleep, the righteous pass from this life into the Intermediate State in bliss, while the wicked go into misery upon their deaths. But what is then the difference between what the wicked and righteous experience now in the Intermediate State and what they will experience after the Day of Judgment? Well for one, they were already judged at death and their judgment was private (Heb 9:27), but the Day of Judgment is public in which the secrets of men will be disclosed. Second, the joy and also the misery of men in the Intermediate State is bodiless. Their bodies lie rotting in the grave, while their souls are in places of peace or anguish. At the Day of Judgment, all the dead will be resurrected, their souls uniting with their bodies, and then come to appear before the throne of God. The difference then is that their everlasting punishment or their everlasting bliss is in body and soul, while in the Intermediate State it is in the soul alone. Moreover, the wicked will then be publicly condemned before the world,...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 2: Of God and of the Holy Trinity - Commentary

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Chapter 2: Of God and of the Holy Trinity

Who is God? What is God like? What does it mean that God is immutable? Does God never change His mind? What is God's love? What is God's justice? Does God know all things? What is the Trinity? Is it biblical? Do we believe in three gods? What do the words essence and person mean?


§1 The Attributes of God

  1. The Lord our God is but one only living and true God1 whose subsistence is in and of himself, infinite in being and perfection; 2 whose essence cannot be comprehended by any but himself; 3 a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; 4 who is immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, every way infinite, most holy, most wise, most free, most absolute; 5 working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will for his own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek him, and withal most just and terrible in his judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty. 9
    1. Deut. 6:4; Jer. 10:10; 1 Cor. 8:4,6; 1 Thess. 1:9[1]
    2. Job 11:7-9; 26:14; Isa. 48:12; Acts 17:24-25
    3. Ex. 3:14; Job 11:7-8; 26:14; Ps. 145:3; Rom. 11:33-34; 1 Cor. 2:11
    4. John 4:24; 1 Tim. 1:17; Deut. 4:15-16; Luke 24:39; Acts 14:11, 15; James 5:17
    5. Mal. 3:6; James 1:17; 1 Kings 8:27; Jer. 23:23-24; Ps. 90:2; 1 Tim. 1:17; Gen. 17:1; Rev. 4:8; Isa. 6:3; Rom. 16:27; Ps. 115:3; Ex. 3:14
    6. Eph. 1:11; Isa. 46:10; Prov. 16:4; Rom. 11:36
    7. 1 John 4:8, 16; Ex. 34:6-7
    8. Heb. 11:6; Gen. 15:1; Matt. 5:12; 10:41-42; Luke 6:35
    9. Neh 9:32-33; Ps. 5:5-6; 11:5; Nahum 1:2-3; Ex. 34:7

There is but one only living and true God (Deut. 6:4; Ps. 96:5; Jer. 10:10; 1Cor 8:4, 6 ). His subsistence is in and of himself, that is, the three Persons of the Trinity, which will be spoken of in paragraph 3. This great God is infinite in being and perfection. He is infinite and perfect in all of His ways and attributes. Furthermore, no one can truly and fully comprehend this great God but Himself (Rom. 11:33-34). He is a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions (1Tim. 1:17), meaning that He is free of the limitation of physical existence and emotions like humans (passions).

He possesses immortality by a necessity of His nature (1Tim. 1:17; 6:16). Our immortality is delegated and derived from God, but His immorality is by necessity and thanks to His nature as God. God cannot but be immortal. He is not only immortal, but He is also immutable, i.e., unchanging (Mal 3:6; Jas. 1:17; Num. 23:19). He is immense, which means that He is without limits and immeasurable (1Kgs. 8:27). He is eternal, meaning that He neither has a beginning or will He have an end (Ps. 90:2). He is almighty, which means that He can do and accomplish anything He pleases (Gen. 17:1; 18:14; Jer. 32:27). He is infinite, great, without limits and perfect in all His ways and attributes. He is most holy, meaning perfect, unique and separate from the rest (Isa. 6:3). He is most wise, in fact, He is the fountain of all knowledge and wisdom (e.g. Col. 2:3). He is most free, meaning that He is not limited or hindered by anything to accomplish His desires (Ps. 115:3; 135:6; Dan. 4:34-35). He is most absolute, meaning that He is the ground of all reality and th...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 19: Of the Law of God - Commentary

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Chapter 19: Of the Law of God

Introduction

What is the relationship of the Christian and the Law? Do we have to obey the Law? What is the threefold division of the law? Are we saved by the Law? What are the threefold uses of the Law? What is the moral law and is it binding on all people? What are the Ten Commandments? Were the Ten Commandments known before Sinai? What is the relationship between the believer and the Ten Commandments? What is the doctrine of the Law and the Gospel?

There is a lot of work to be done in this chapter and I think that this is a crucial chapter, one that I want to study myself. I do believe what is confessed here, but I do also want to be able to make a biblical case for it. The case that I will lay down is obviously convincing to me, I will not be able to address every objection that may come up. What I want to lay down here is the binding authority and nature of the Decalogue on all people, whether saved or unsaved; what the relationship of the Christian is to the Law and such questions.

Defining Our Terms

Natural Law

The Natural Law is the Law of God as revealed in creation and which man knows by virtue of the fact that he’s a creature made in the image of God (see here on the image of God). Natural Law may be discovered by reason and innate knowledge. The Reformed Baptist theologian Richard Barcellos writes the following concerning the substance and form of the Moral Law:

Protestant Scholasticism taught that the Decalogue summarily contains the Moral Law and is the inscripturated form of the natural law, as to its substance. A distinction was made between substance and form. Substance is one; form (and function) may vary. For example, when the Westminster Larger Catechism Q. 98 says, “The moral law is summarily comprehended in the ten commandments,” it refers to the fact that the substance (i.e., the underlying essence) of the Moral Law is assumed and articulated in the propositions of the Decalogue as contained in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. The form (and function) fits the redemptive-historical circumstances in which it was given. The substance, or underlying principles, are always relevant and applicable to man because he is created in the image of God. The application may shift based on redemptive-historical changes, such as the inauguration of the New Covenant, but its substance and utility never changes.[1]

Moral Law

The Moral Law, on the other hand, is the Law which is revealed and summarized by God in the Ten Commandments, the Decalogue, which is the substance of the Natural Law. Richard Muller is quoted in Barcellos on the definition of the Moral Law, saying:

specifically and predominantly, the Decalogus, or Ten Commandments; also called the lex Mosaica …, as distinct from the lex ceremonialis …and the lex civilis, or civil law. The lex moralis, which is primarily intended to regulate morals, is known to the synderesis [the innate habit of understanding basic principles of moral law] and is the basis of the acts of conscientia [conscience–the application of the innate habit above]. In substance, the lex moralis is identical with the lex naturalis …but, unlike the natural law, it is given by revelation in a form which is clearer and fuller than that otherwise known to the reason.[2]

And then Dr. Barcellos adds:

As noted above, the Moral Law is summarily comprehended in the Decalogue, not exhausted by it. Though the formal promulgation of the Decalog...


2 Peter 3:8-9, not wishing that any should perish

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 3:8-9 (ESV)

(For a better and more recent defense see here.)

This is one of what is called the “Arminian Big Three.” And it is huge when you don’t consider the context. All you see is that God doesn’t want anyone to go to hell, yet somehow being the Almighty, He is not able/willing to save them, but instead sends so many to hell, because they sin against Him. What people mostly miss is that this passage (v 9) actually is not referring to non-believers or the entire human race, but to God’s elect and we will see why. (Please understand that I am not saying that God loves sending people to hell, no, I totally believe Ezek 18:23, 32. But what I believe is that God is glorified in the damnation of the reprobate indeed, Prov 16:4; Rom 9:22).

The first thing we need to examine is to whom all these words refer to (you, any, all). It is clear from the greeting of Peter’s second letter to whom this letter is directed, “…To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ” (1:1), thus believers, God’s elect. 2 Pet 3:1 says that those recipients have had received another letter from Peter, that is 1 Peter and we directly see in v 1, “…To those who are elect exiles…” We see again at the beginning of 2 Pet 3:8 that Peter is talking to the “beloved,” a term used referring to Jesus or the believers. Thus we have established that the context and the audience to whom these passages are directed are fellow believers of Peter. In chapter 3 Peter warns his fellow believers about those who will come scoffing about the Second Coming, that it has not yet happened yet Jesus said that He will come soon. He tells them that this present Universe is stored up for wrath (v 7); time is nothing with God (v 8); God is patient toward His sheep, waiting for the ones who yet have to be born and/or be saved, so the Lord is patient toward His own and He’s not willing that any of them perish, but all of them come to Him (v 9).

In 2 Peter 3, the Christians – all God's elect are represented by Peter's audience as His beloved, even when they were dead in trespasses God loved them (Eph 2:1-10) and in love predestined them (Eph 1:3-6). It is for their sake that God is delaying the Parousia of our blessed Savior. God is waiting until the number of His elect is complete then He will send the Savior to judge the world in righteousness.

Commentaries

John MacArthur says the following in the ESV MacArthur Study Bible [1]

2 Pet. 3:9 not slow. That is, not loitering or late (cf. Gal. 4:4; Titus 2:13; Heb. 6:18; 10:23, 37; Rev. 19:11). patient toward you. “You” is the saved, the people of God. He waits for them to be saved. God has an immense capacity for patience before he breaks forth in judgment (cf. 2 Pet. 3:15; Joel 2:13; Luke 15:20; Rom. 9:22; 1 Pet. 3:15). God endures endless blasphemies against his name, along with rebellion, murders, and the ongoing breaking of his law, waiting patiently while he is calling and redeeming his own. It is not impotence or slackness that delays final judgment; it is patience. not wishing that any should perish. The “any” must refer to those whom the L...


Romans 5:18-19, 'justification and life for all men'

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. Romans 5:18-19 (ESV)

(For a recent defense of this see here.)

This to me seems a pretty simply one, but it’s going to be troublesome if people only quote verse 18 and you’re not aware of verse 19 which clarifies verse 18. 

Adam Christ
One trespass led to condemnation for “all One act of righteousness leads to justification and life for “all

One disobedience leads to “the many” made sinners

One obedience leads to the justification of “the many

Throughout the discussion in Romans 5 the Apostle groups humanity into to groups: they’re either in Adam or in Christ.

All those outside of Christ are in Adam, they are his natural children and have inherited the sinful nature from their father Adam, who is the root of the human tree. He was the representative of all the human race in the Garden.

But by the grace of God, we have another Federal Head, namely our precious Lord Jesus, who stood in the stead of His people (Matt 1:21; 2 Co 5:21; Tit 2:14, Jn 10:15, etc..).

Not all the human race is in Him, but only those who believe in Him. All those who do not believe remain in Adam.

It is clear from contrasting verses 18 and 19 (and Romans 5 in general) that Paul does not see the whole human race as justified because of Christ, as that would contradict the idea of Hell and what was said before chapter 5, especially Romans 1-2 and what is in this chapter: Romans 5:12, 14, 16-17.

Commentaries

The ESV Study Bible explains: [1]

Rom. 5:18 The one trespass of Adam, as the covenantal head of the human race, brought condemnation and guilt to all people. In a similar way, Christ’s one act of righteousness (either his death as such or his whole life of perfect obedience, including his death) grants righteousness and life to all who belong to him. for all men. Some interpreters have advocated universalism (the view that all will be saved) based on these verses. But Paul makes it plain in this context that only those who “receive” (v. 17) God’s gift belong to Christ (see also 1:16–5:11, which indicates that only those who have faith will be justified). The wording “as … so” shows that Paul’s focus is not on the number in each group but on the method of either sin or righteousness being passed from the representative leader to the whole group: the first “all men” refers to all who are in Adam (every human being), while the second “all men” refers to all believers, to all who are “in Christ.” On the translation “men,” see note on 5:12.

The John MacArthur ESV Study Bible explains: [2]

Condemnation. See not on v. 16. One act of righteousness. Not a reference to a single event, but generally to Christ’s obedience (cf. v. 19; Luke 2:49; John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38), culminating in the greatest demonstration of this obedience, death on a cross (Phil. 2:8). Justification . . . for all men. This cannot mean that all men will be saved; salvation is only for those who exercise faith in Jesus Christ (cf. Rom 1:16-17; 3:22, 28; 4:5, 13). Rather, like the word many in 5:15, Paul is using “all” with two different meanings for the sake of parallelism, a common practice in the Hebrew OT.

...

Hebrews 2:9, 'Taste Death For Everyone'

Hebrews 2:9-10[1]

But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. 10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. (ESV)

(For a better and more recent defense see here.)

Taste death for everyone,” if we understand this to refer to every single individual then the logical conclusion is Universalism, which has lots of biblical problems. So let us dig a little deeper in the context of this verse.

The question is— If everyone (pas, πᾶς, G3956, “all, any, every, the whole”) in verse 9 is meant to be taken as in “every single person without exception,” then we have a problem on our hands. The problem is that the passage would then mean that everyone will be saved, or that Christ has atoned for the sins of everyone, even those in Hell. It will totally destroy the picture of Christ being the mediator/intercessor/High Priest of His people in Hebrews chapters 9 and 10. Interceding for a specific people whom He has perfected.

Let us now consider the surrounding passages. In verse 10 we see that that the Lord Jesus has brought “many sons to glory.” If the “everyone” of verse 9 is to be taken as “every single individual without exception” then verse 10 should’ve read something like: “bringing all to glory” or “brining all sons to glory.” Many sons” has a limitation, it does not refer to every single individual. We read further in Hebrews 2:11-13

For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, 12 saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” 13 And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.”

Who are being sanctified? We’re told in Heb 10:14 “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified,” those are Christians, people who have put their faith in Him, those for whom He intercedes (Heb 7:25). “Children God has given me” echoes John 6, specifically verses 37-39.

ESV Study Bible explains:[2]

  • Heb. 2:9 But we see him, that is, Jesus. At this point all interpreters agree that the focus of the passage is Jesus (cf. notes on vv. 7, 8). The phrase little while and the sequence of events in vv. 7–8 (cf. Ps. 8:5–6) demonstrate that, after first being made lower than the angels, Jesus was subsequently crowned and exalted. While Jesus’ sufferings indicated his humiliation and subjection, his suffering of death was also the reason for his being crowned with glory and honor. Jesus tasted death as a work of God’s grace done on behalf of everyone (i.e., all who follow him; Heb. 9:15, 28; 10:39). Jesus. This is the first mention of Jesus’ name in Hebrews (see 3:1; 4:14; etc.; “Christ” first appears in 3:6). “Crowned with glory and honor” echoes the same phrase used in 2:7. Though the human race generally did not fulfill God’s plan to put everything on earth under man’s feet (vv. 6–8), there is one man who is fulfilling God’s great plan for human beings, and that is Jesus.
  • Heb. 2:10 he, for whom and by whom all things exist. This is God the Father, who acts to “make perfect” the “founder of their salvation” (Jesus). m...

1 Timothy 2:4 & Titus 2:11, 'desires all people to be saved'

1 Timothy 2:1-6 & Titus 2:11[1]

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. (1 Timothy 2:1-6, ESV)

(For a better and a more recent defense of 1Tim 2:4 see here.)

This is one of the “Arminian Big Three” which you will get almost in every conversation about Calvinism in real life or online. Usually verses 3-4 are just quoted to make the case that God wants to save every single individual. The question is, does “all” in context really mean “every single individual in the world”? Or is this talking about God’s desire not His sovereign decree?

Will of Desire interpretation

There are some people who understand this passage and other passages like 2 Pet 3:9 to refer to God’s will of desire. God’s will of desire being, God’s desire that people should not murder, lie, steal, commit adultery or have other gods before Him (Ex 20), but He doesn’t decree that it should be done so. It is also called His will of precept.

So God’s will of desire refers to the things that God has not decreed in His sovereign plan before the foundation of the world, yet desires. In this interpretation, God would desire that all be saved, but He has not decreed that all should be saved, because He wants to show the full measure of His glory (Rom 9:22-24). I don’t find this interpretation compelling and I believe the following interpretation is more compelling.

The “all kinds of people” interpretation

The major Reformed interpretation takes the position that the word “all” in this context means “all kinds of people,” not every single individual, why do we say that? Because there are times in Scripture when “all” is used in the sense of “every single individual in the world”, but there are times which it isn’t used like that, but limited according to the context. Let’s look at a few verses, shall we? The portion we’re going to look at is in Titus 2. Here we see that Paul is telling Timothy to teach “sound doctrine.” Then we see him list types/groups of people:

2. Older men are to be sober-minded…

3. Older women likewise…

4. so train the young women to love their husbands and children

6. …urge the younger men

9. Slaves

11. For the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation for all people,

12. training us to renounce ungodliness

13. waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,

14. who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

We see that Paul in verse 11 says that salvation has been brought for all people, but considering the context we can safely say that it means “all kinds of people,” since in the previous verses he was talking about kinds of people (men, women, slaves, etc..). We can reasonably say that what Paul is saying through “all people” is “all kinds of people,” (as we understand that in our individualistic society) just as those kinds...