Calvin’s appalling interpretation of ‘all men’

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By Spencer D Gear

Does God zap people with unconditional election and they are INTO the kingdom, NEVER to be excluded?[1] Is God’s grace extended to all people or are many excluded?

What happened with the Philippian jailer? According to Acts 16:30-31 (ESV), it is stated: ‘Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household”’. They did not say, ‘Just leave it to God/Jesus; he decides if you are ever going to be saved. He by a sovereign act pulls you into his kingdom – he sovereignly elects you and you have no say in the matter’.

No, these evangelists said, ‘(You) believe in the Lord Jesus’ to be saved. As I understand Soteriology (the doctrine of salvation), there is no salvation without the human responsibility of believing. However, we always need to remember that

  •  Jesus said, according to John 6:65 (ESV), ‘No one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father’.
  • Matthew 11:27 affirms the same message: ‘No one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him’.
  • Paul’s message to the Ephesians was, ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast’ (Eph 2:8-9 ESV).
  • Titus 1:1 (NLT) confirms that Christian believers are ‘those God has chosen’.

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(image courtesy portagechurch.org)

A. God’s grace to all

I find a better biblical emphasis than unconditional election[2] to be that found in Titus 2:11 (ESV): ‘For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people’. This does not promote universalism, BUT it proves how God’s saving grace is universal – is available to all – and that grace brings salvation. This is in contrast to Calvin’s limiting grace to only a select number of people, made available through Calvinistic limited atonement.[3]

Here is John Calvin’s interpretation of this verse from Calvin’s commentary on Titus 2:11. He stated of this phrase:

Bringing salvation to all men,[4] That it is common to all is expressly testified by him on account of the slaves of whom he had spoken. Yet he does not mean individual men, but rather describes individual classes, or various ranks of life. And this is not a little emphatic, that the grace of God hath let itself down even to the race of slaves; for, since God does not despise men of the lowest and most degraded condition, it would be highly unreasonable that we should be negligent and slothful to embrace his goodness.

B. Calvin’s shocking eisegesis

What is eisegesis? Berkeley Mickelsen states that ‘eisegesis is the substitution of the authority of the interpreter for the authority of the original writer’ (Mickelsen 1963:158). Lewis & Demarest describe it as the method of people ‘reading their own ideas into the Bible’ (1987:30). The World Council of Churches understood that

there is always the danger of eisegesis, reading into the Bible the ideas which we have received from elsewhere and then receiving them each with the authority with which we have come to surround the book (World Council of Churches Symposium on Biblical Authority for Today, Oxford, 1949).[5]

I find Calvin’s interpretation of Titus 2:11 to be an awful piece of eisegesis. Calvin, a very accomplished commentator, has made ‘all men’ refer NOT to all individual men – meaning all human beings – but to individual classes of people and those in various ranks of life, including the race of slaves.

This is as bad a piece of exegesis that I’ve read in quite a while as he makes ‘all men’ = some slaves and some from other classes and ranks in life. This is what happens when a commentator allows his predisposed presupposition (God’s grace cannot be extended to all, but only to the elect) to intrude into his interpretation. Thus exegesis of this phrase in Titus 2:11 has become eisegesis in the hands of a Reformed Calvinist, the founder of the movement.

Meyer’s commentary states: ‘[pasin anthropois, all men and women] does not depend on [epephane, appeared], but on [sotegios, salvation]…. The emphasis laid on the universality of the salvation, as in 1 Timothy 2:4 and other passages of the Pastoral Epistles, is purely Pauline’ (Titus 2:11 commentaries, Bible Hub).

First Timothy 2:3-4 (ESV) reads, ‘This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’ (emphasis added). This is in harmony with Paul’s statement in Titus 2:11 that God’s grace is made available to all people, thus making salvation available to all. These two passages ‘have specific reference to the redemption wrought by Christ, and all posit universality. They are supported by numerous correlative passages which assert God’s will that all men be saved’ (Shank 1970:83). These verses support unlimited atonement. Fairbairn’s assessment is accurate regarding Titus 2:11: The grace of God and its saving design is towards all people; it ‘presents and offers salvation to all, and in that sense brings it…. The salvation-bringing grace of God is without respect of persons; it is unfolded to men indiscriminately, or to sinners of every name’ (Fairbairn 2001:278).

William Hendriksen promotes an opposing view:

Does Titus 2:11 really teach that the saving grace of God has appeared to every member of the human race without exception? Of course not! It matters little whether one interprets “the appearance of the saving grace” as referring to the bestowal of salvation itself, or to the fact that the gospel of saving grace has been preached to every person on earth. In either case it is impossible to make “all men” mean “every individual on the globe without exception”…..

The context makes the meaning very clear. Male or female, old or young, rich or poor: all are guilty before God, and from them all God gathers his people. Aged men, aged women, young women, young(er) men, and even slaves (see verses 1-10) should live consecrated lives for the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation to men of all these various groups or classes. “All men” here in verse 11 = “us” in verse 12 (The Pastorals, Hendriksen 1957:93, 371, emphasis in original).

So Hendriksen’s interpretation is essentially that of Calvin’s, as is Matthew Henry’s:

It hath appeared to all men; not to the Jews only, as the glory of God appeared at mount Sinai to that particular people, and out of the view of all others; but gospel grace is open to all, and all are invited to come and partake of the benefit of it, Gentiles as well as Jews…. The doctrine of grace and salvation by the gospel is for all ranks and conditions of men (slaves and servants, as well as masters) (Matthew Henry, Titus 2:11-14).

This cannot be accepted because of the various verses throughout Scripture that promote unlimited atonement (1 John 2:2) and God’s desire for all people to be saved (1 Tim 2:4).

The obvious question remains:

C. At what point is grace for salvation available to all?

Titus 2:11 makes it clear that God’s grace, his goodness to the ill-deserving, is made available (‘has appeared’ is the language) ‘to all people’. But when is that? Is it at the time of birth, at some time after birth, at the time of the Gospel being presented, or at some other time? Has the grace of God appeared bringing salvation to the drunk on the street, the Muslim in an anti-Christian country, the secular Aussie who doesn’t give a hoot about God, or at some other time?

Titus 2:11 seems to indicate that the grace of God has appeared to all people in some way that we could describe as prevenient grace, preparing the way for salvation when the Gospel is proclaimed to them. See my article, Is prevenient grace still amazing grace? Here I put the case that this means that the human will is freed in relation to salvation. It is not a violation of free will. We know that the will has been freed in relation to salvation because it is implied in these exhortations:

  • to turn to God. (Prov 1:23; Isa 31:6; Ezek 14:6; 18:32; Joel 2:13-14; Matt 18:3; and Acts 3:19);
  • to repent (1 Kings 8:47; Matt 3:2; Mark 1:15; Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 2:38; 17:30), and
  • to believe (2 Chron 20:20; Isa 43:10; John 6:29; 14:1; Acts 16:31; Phil 1:29; 1 John 3:23).

Prevenient or common grace is no more a violation of a person’s will than their receiving a beating heart before birth and breath after birth.

Exegete, Gordon Fee, explains Titus 2:11:

An explanatory for opens the paragraph and thus closely ties verses 11-14 to 2-10. It proceeds to explain why God’s people should live as exhorted in 2-10 (so that the message from God will not be maligned [v. 5] but instead will be attractive [v. 10]): because the grace of God that brings salvation to all people has appeared.

In the Greek text all of verses 11-14 form a single sentence, of which the grace of God stands as the grammatical subject. But contrary to the NIV (and KJV), Paul does not say that this grace appeared to all men; rather, as almost all other translations have it, and as both Paul’s word order and the usage in 1 Timothy 2:3-6 demand it, what has appeared (see disc. on 1 Tim. 6:14; epiphaneia) is grace from God that offers salvation to all people.

Paul does not indicate here the reference point for this revelation of God’s grace. Most likely he is thinking of the historical revelation effected in the saving event of Christ (v. 14; cf. 2 Tim. 1:9-10), but it could also refer existentially to the time in Crete when Paul and Titus preached the gospel and Cretans understood and accepted the message (cf. 1:3 and 3:3-4). That at least is when the educative dimension of grace, emphasized in verse 12, took place (Fee 1988:194, emphasis in original).

See my article for a further explanation: Does God’s grace make salvation available to all people? It is important to note that God’s grace is made available to all but Fee’s insight that ‘Paul does not indicate here the reference point for this revelation of God’s grace’ is important. We do not know the how and when this happens. Fee thinks it could have happened historically when the saving event of Christ was effected (cf Titus 2:14 and 2 Tim 1:9-10). However, I put it to you that this could happen at the time when the Gospel is proclaimed in any contemporary situation. The grace of God is extended to all people in the sound of the proclamation. But that is only a suggestion. We are not told the chronology of when it happens. But we do know that God’s grace bringing salvation has appeared to all people – not just a handful of God’s elect.

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D. Objections to label of eisegesis

It is expected that Calvinists would object to any attempt to interpret 1 Tim 2:4 (pantas anthropous) and Titus 2:11 (pasin anthropois) as referring to all people. I expect that they would not like my labelling Calvin’s interpretation as eisegesis. I hope the following explanation demonstrates that I do not have a beef over Calvin’s interpretations for no good reason.

Some standard Bible translations of these two verses are:

1 Timothy 2:4,

  • ‘who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’ (ESV);
  • ‘who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth’ (NIV);
  • ‘who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’ (NASB);
  • ‘who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’ (NRSV);
  • ‘who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth’ (NLT).

Titus 2:11,

  • ‘For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people’ (ESV);
  • ‘For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people’ (NIV);
  • ‘For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men’ (NASB);
  • ‘For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all’ (NRSV);
  • ‘For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people’ (NLT);

All of these translations take the two verses in which the Greek states ‘all men’ as referring to all people, all of mankind, or all of humanity. However, the NKJV still retains ‘all men’ in Titus 2:11, without explaining the meaning, ‘For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men’ (NKJV). It takes the same approach with 1 Tim 2:4, ‘who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’ (NKJV).

Does ‘all people’ refer to all human beings or does it refer to something else?

Image result for photo William Hendriksen public domain

(William Hendriksen, photo public domain)

William Hendriksen is a Calvinist.[6] In his commentary on Titus 2:11, he stated that ‘all men’ referred back to 1 Tim 2:4 and the explanation of ‘all men’ (Hendriksen 1957:370-371), where Hendriksen wrote at length. Some of my objections to his comments on 1 Tim 2:1 (Hendriksen 1957:93-94) are noted in [square brackets]:

Several expositors feel certain that this means every member of the whole human race; every man, woman, and child, without any exception whatever. And it must be readily admitted that taken by itself the expression all men is capable of this interpretation. Nevertheless, every calm and unbiased interpreter also admits that in certain contexts this simply cannot be the meaning.[7]

Does Titus 2:11 really teach that the saving grace of God has appeared to every member of the human race without any exception? Of course not! It matters little whether one interprets “the appearance of the saving grace” as referring to the bestowal of salvation itself, or to the fact that the gospel of saving grace has been preached to every person on earth. In either case it is impossible to make “all men” mean “every individual on the globe without exception. [N.B. What causes Hendriksen to be so sure that he certainly knows that God’s grace (even prevenient grace that prepares the human race for salvation) is NOT available to all people? There’s an air of Calvinistic firmness (Hendriksen’s theological persuasion) coming through with this kind of comment].

Again, does Rom. 5:18 really teach that “every member of the human race” is “justified”? [N.B. What Hendriksen fails to mention in this context is that Rom 5:18 includes two examples of ‘all men’. The first is, ‘Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men….’ So does ‘all men’ who are condemned refer to all people? Of course, as the following parallel verses confirm: Romans 3:23; 5:12. Hendriksen refers to one view of ‘all men’ but avoids the other use of ‘all men’ in the very same verse. Seems like selective exegesis to me.]

Does I Cor. 15:22 really intend to tell us that “every member of the human race” is “made alive in Christ“? [N.B. I find this quite a unreasonable statement because 1 Cor 15:23 gives the context, ‘Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ’ (ESV). So in 1 Cor 15:22-23, Paul is addressing ALL ‘who belong to Christ’ (v. 23); He is not speaking of all people, non-believers and Christians alike. So Hendriksen’s use of 1 Cor. 15:22 does not prove his point. It demonstrates he has not taken into account the meaning as context determines.]

But if that be true, then it follows that Christ did not only die for every member of the human race, but that he also actually saved every one without any exception whatever. Most conservatives would hesitate to go that far.[8]

Moreover, if, wherever it occurs, the expression “all men” or its equivalent has this absolutely universalistic connotation, then would not the following be true:

(a) Every member of the human race regarded John the Baptist as a prophet (Mark 11:32). [N.B. Part of Mk 11:32 in the Greek is literally, ‘they feared the crowd [the people], for all held….’ Even if one translated ‘the crowd for all men’, the ‘all men’ in context has to refer to ‘the crowd’ (the people of the context), not all people in the world. I find it disingenuous of Hendriksen to want to make ‘all men’ refer to the human race when he, a scholar with excellent knowledge of Greek knew that ‘all’ referred to ‘the crowd’ in context. I find this to be an example of the commentator playing his misleading Calvinistic games. It is a begging the question logical fallacy. That is, if he starts with the Calvinistic premise that ‘all men’ does not mean all men and then ends with ‘all men’ cannot mean the ‘human race’, he has engaged in circular reasoning, a question begging fallacy. So his use of Mark 11:32 is invalid to support his case.]

(b) Every member of the human race wondered whether John was, perhaps, the Christ (Luke 3:15). [N.B. This verse in the ESV states, ‘As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ’. Which people? Verses 7 & 10 call them ‘the crowds’ while v. 12 states that ‘tax collectors also came’ and there were soldiers who asked John the Baptist (v. 14). These are the ‘people’ who came to John the Baptist according to Luke 3:15 (Interlinear). It is obvious that ‘the people’ were not all the people in the world. They were the people in his era who had heard and seen him and were ‘questioning in their hearts concerning John’. Again, I find this to be an unfair way for Hendriksen to push his Calvinistic agenda.]

(c) Every member of the human race marveled about the Gadarene demoniac (Mark 5:20). [N.B. Hendriksen is again stretching the text to fit his agenda. The verse states: ‘everyone was amazed’ (Interlinear) but the context makes it clear who all of these were. They were in the Decapolis’ (Interlinear). We use the same kind of language today, say, when we are attending a fruit and vegetable market. We say things like, ‘Look at all the people buying lady finger bananas on special’. No person in his or her right mind would think that ‘all the people’ meant all the people in the entire world. So when ‘everyone was amazed according to Mark 5:20, it was referring to the amazed people in Decapolis who had seen evidence of the demon-possessed person set free by Jesus’ exorcism. Again, Hendriksen is stretching the imagination to arrive at a conclusion that is unrealistic in the context.]

(d) Every member of the human race was searching for Jesus (Mark 1:37). [N.B. Mark 1:37 (Interlinear) has the statement, ‘Everyone is looking for you’. There is not enough information in the immediate context to determine who the ‘everyone’ refers to, but the context in the Gospel of Mark 1:32-34 (Interlinear) indicates that the people were bringing the sick and demon-possessed to Jesus for healing and deliverance. The language is, ‘The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases’ (NIV). Therefore, there is a strong possibility that ‘everyone’ who was looking for Jesus could have referred to the sick or demon possessed because of Jesus’ reputation for healing and exorcism. To make this refer to the entire human race in this context is quite a nonsensical intent. Context in Scripture snuffs out that idea. So it is possible for ‘everyone’ to refer to everyone in a group that is seeking Jesus. But to make Mark 1:37 apply to ‘all men’ regarding the offer of salvation, is stretching my theological logical thinking.]

(e) It was reported to the Baptist that all members of the human race were flocking to Jesus (John 3:26). [N.B. The Interlinear gives the translation, ‘Everyone is coming to him’. What does the context tell us about the ‘everyone’? People were coming to John the Baptist to be baptised (John 3:22-24) and then there was a discussion between some of John the Baptist’s disciples and a Jew about John the Baptist’s baptism and the ‘all’ who were now coming to Jesus to be baptised. It is obvious in context that the ‘all’ are those wanting to be baptised. It is a very local understanding of ‘all’. Context demonstrates that].

And so one could easily continue. Even today, how often do we not use the expression “all men” or “everybody” without referring to every member of the human race? When we say, “If everybody is ready, the meeting can begin,” we do not refer to everybody on earth!

Thus also in the present passage (I Tim. 2:1), it is the context that must decide. In this case the context is clear. Paul definitely mentions groups or classes of men: kings (verse 2). those in high position (verse 2), the Gentiles (verse 7). He is thinking of rulers and (by implication) subjects, of Gentiles and (again by implication) Jews. and he is urging Timothy to see to it that in public worship not a single group be omitted. In other words, the expression “all men” as here used means “all men without distinction of race, nationality, or social position,” not “all men individually, one by one.”

Besides, how would it even be possible, except in a very vague and global manner (the very opposite of Paul’s constant emphasis!), to remember in prayer every person on earth? (Hendriksen & Kistemaker 1966:93-94).

What is Hendriksen trying to demonstrate? The verses he plucked from the New Testament are meant to try to prove his Calvinistic presupposition that when Scripture states God desires ‘all people to be saved’ (1 Tim 2:4), it does not mean all human beings but only some from all races, classes, tribes, etc., i.e. God does not really desire all people throughout the entire world through all ages to be saved. He also is trying to show that Titus 2:11 does not refer to God’s grace appearing and bringing/making salvation available to all people. I find his argumentation to contain some flaws that I’ve attempted to expose here. This is unfortunate because I have the Hendriksen-Kistemaker New Testament Commentary Series in my personal library and I find many helpful explanations in them.

However, it does demonstrate the need to be discerning when reading any material – commentary or other Christian literature (including all of my writings on this homepage) – according to what Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: ‘Test everything; hold fast what is good’ (1 Thess 5:21 ESV).

E. Did Jesus die for all people?[9]

First John 2:2 would seem to be an excellent verse to establish Christ’s unlimited atonement – dying for the whole world of sinners: ‘He is the atoning sacrifice[10] for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world, (NIV).

How does R C Sproul, a Calvinist, interpret this verse? He admits that ‘this text, more than any other, is cited as scriptural proof against definite atonement’. His view is that if this verse is taken in this sense, ‘it becomes a proof text for universalism’. His way of viewing the text is

to see the contrast in it between our sins and those of the whole world. Who are the people included in the word our?…. In this text, John may merely be saying that Christ is not only a propitiation for our sins (Jewish believers) but for the elect found also throughout the whole world…. The purpose of God in Christ’s death was determined at the foundation of the world. The design was not guesswork but according to a specific plan and purpose, which God is sovereignly bringing to pass. All for whom Christ died are redeemed by His sacrificial act….

The Atonement in a broad sense is offered to all; in a narrow sense, it is only offered to the elect. John’s teaching that Christ died for the sins of the whole world means that the elect are not limited to Israel but are found throughout the world” (Sproul 1992:176-177, emphasis in original).

Talk about confusion. There is not a word in context of 1 John to speak of the elect as limited to Israel. What does the Bible teach?

By contrast, Lutheran commentator, R. C. H. Lenski (1966:399-400), while preferring the term expiation to propitiation, states that the Righteous One (Jesus, from 1 John 2:1) ‘suffered for unrighteous ones’ and this is ‘effective … regarding the sins of the whole world’. He goes further:

John advances the thought from sins to the whole world of sinners. Christ made expiation for our sins and thereby for all sinners. We understand [kosmos] in the light of John 3:16 and think that it includes all men [meaning people], us among them, and not only all unsaved men [i.e. people]…. [As in 2 Pet 2:1]: the Lord bought even those who go to hell. “The whole world” includes all men who ever lived or will live (Lenski 1966:400).

Lenski appropriately states that ‘Christ’s saving righteousness and expiation are the basis for his action as our Advocate’ and that we Christians have him as one who is called to our side, our Advocate. ‘John does not say that the whole world has him in this capacity’ (Lenski 1966:400-401).

1. Calvin on the atonement

Did John Calvin (AD 1509-1564) support limited atonement? In the early days of his writing when he was aged 26, he completed the first edition of The Institutes of the Christian Religion. In the Institutes, he wrote:

I say with Augustine, that the Lord has created those who, as he certainly foreknew, were to go to destruction, and he did so because he so willed. Why he willed it is not ours to ask, as we cannot comprehend, nor can it become us even to raise a controversy as to the justice of the divine will. Whenever we speak of it, we are speaking of the supreme standard of justice (Institutes 3.23.5).

Here Calvin affirmed that God willed the destruction of unbelievers. Calvin continues:

Their perdition depends on the predestination of God, the cause and matter of it is in themselves. The first man fell because the Lord deemed it meet that he should: why he deemed it meet, we know not. It is certain, however, that it was just, because he saw that his own glory would thereby be displayed (Institutes 3.23.8).

While this description is tied up with Calvin’s view of double predestination, it is linked with the doctrine of limited atonement in that it would be impossible for God to predestine unbelievers to eternal damnation and yet provide unlimited atonement that was available to them, with the possibility of salvation. That is the logical connection, as I understand it.

Roger Nicole, another Calvinist, has written an article on “John Calvin’s view of the extent of the atonement”. This indicates that Calvin did not believe in limited atonement, but that it was a doctrine originated by Calvinists following Calvin.

Calvin’s first edition of The Institutes was in Latin in 1536 and this was published in a French edition in 1560.

John Calvin did progress in his thinking when he wrote his commentaries on the Bible later in life. His first commentary was on the Book of Romans in 1540 and his commentaries after 1557 were taken from stenographer’s notes taken from lectures to his students. He wrote in his commentary on John 3:16:

Faith in Christ brings life to all, and that Christ brought life, because the Heavenly Father loves the human race, and wishes that they should not perish….

And he has employed the universal term whosoever, both to invite all indiscriminately to partake of life, and to cut off every excuse from unbelievers. Such is also the import of the term World, which he formerly used; for though nothing will be found in the world that is worthy of the favor of God, yet he shows himself to be reconciled to the whole world, when he invites all men without exception to the faith of Christ, which is nothing else than an entrance into life (emphasis added).

Thus John Calvin himself is very clear. He believed in unlimited atonement.

Why

(image courtesy ChristArt)

The following verses also affirm unlimited atonement:

clip_image003_thumb John 1:29: “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (NIV).

clip_image0031_thumb John 4:42: “They said to the woman, ‘We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world’” (NIV).

clip_image0032_thumb Acts 2:21: “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (NIV).

clip_image0033_thumb Romans 5:6: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly” (NIV).

clip_image0034_thumb 2 Corinthians 5:14-15: “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (NIV).

clip_image0035_thumb 1 Timothy 2:3-4: “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (NIV).

clip_image0036_thumb 1 Timothy 2:5-6: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men – the testimony given in its proper time” (NIV).

clip_image0037_thumb 1 Timothy 4:10: “That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe” (NIV)

clip_image0038_thumb Titus 2:11: “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people” (NIV).

clip_image0039_thumb Hebrews 2:9: “But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (NIV).

clip_image00310_thumb 2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (NIV).

clip_image00311_thumb 1 John 4:14: “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.”

clip_image00312_thumb John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Arminian-leaning theologian, Henry C. Thiessen’s, summary of the sense in which Christ is the Saviour of the world is:

His death secured for all men a delay in the execution of the sentence against sin, space for repentance, and the common blessings of life which have been forfeited by transgression; it removed from the mind of God every obstacle to the pardon of the penitent and restoration of the sinner, except his wilful opposition to God and rejection of him; it procured for the unbeliever the powerful incentives to repentance presented in the Cross, by means of the preaching of God’s servants, and through the work of the Holy Spirit; it provided salvation for those who die in infancy, and assured its application to them; and it makes possible the final restoration of creation itself (Thiessen 1949:330).

Limited or definite atonement is clearly refuted by Scripture. See this external link, ‘A letter to a limited atonement brother’ (Timothy Ministry 2011).

Conclusion

Calvin’s shocking commentary on Titus 2:11 that makes ‘all people’ equal ‘all classes of people’ is an example of how a theologian’s Calvinistic presuppositions are imposed on a text to arrive at an interpretation consistent with his premises. This is an example of eisegesis – imposing Calvin’s predetermined view on the text. It also is a question begging logical fallacy.

An exegesis of the text discovers that God’s grace appears to all people with the view to salvation. We don’t know when that happens as it is not stated in the text. But we do know that all people who have ever lived have experienced this grace to make salvation available to them when the Gospel is preached.

We further uncovered the fact that Calvin engaged in eisegesis of the text of Titus 2:11 to impose his view on the text, rather than allowing the text to speak for itself in exegesis.

William Hendriksen also imposed his view which was challenged to demonstrate that ‘all people’ means exactly that – all of the human race and not all tribes or groups of people.

It was demonstrated from Scripture that Jesus died for all human beings and not only for the elect. This unlimited atonement is the view that Calvin also supported. A range of biblical verses was presented to demonstrate that unlimited atonement is clearly taught in Scripture.

In summary: The grace of God has appeared to all people everywhere and making salvation available to them. Jesus died for all people, not just the elect. We don’t know the time at which God’s grace and its availability for salvation comes to all people. The Scripture does not reveal the precise time of that grace being extended to all. This we know from Titus 2:11: That grace of God appears to all people without exception – unto salvation.

Second Corinthians 5:19 affirms that ‘in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation’ (ESV) and ‘the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people’ (Titus 2:11 NLT)

 Works consulted

Fairbairn, P 2001.[11] Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles. Lafayette, IN: Sovereign Grace Publishers.

Fee, G D 1988. I and 2 Timothy, Titus. W Ward Gasque, New Testament (ed). Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers.

Hendriksen, W 1978. The Covenant of Grace. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.

Hendriksen, W & Kistemaker, S J 1955. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of Thessalonians, the Pastorals, and Hebrews. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

Lenski, R C H 1966. Commentary on the New Testament: The interpretation of the epistles of St. Peter, St. John, and St. Jude. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers (© 1966 Augsburg Publishing House).

Lewis, G R & Demarest, B A 1987. Integrative theology, vol 1. Grand Rapids, Michigan : Academie Books (Zondervan Publishing House).

Mickelsen, A B 1963. Interpreting the Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Olson, R E 2006, Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Shank, R 1970. Elect in the Son: A Study of the Doctrine of Election. Springfield, Missouri: Westcott Publishers.

Sproul, R C 1992. Essential truths of the Christian faith. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Thiessen, H C 1949. Introductory lectures in systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Notes:


[1] I included some of the following explanation as OzSpen#959 in Christianity Board, Christian Theology Forum, ‘The doctrine of OSAS’, available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/18216-the-doctrine-of-osas/page-32#entry261296 (Accessed 17 September 2015).

[2] For contrasting views, see: Arminianism: Roger Olson, ‘Election is for everyone‘; Calvinism: J I Packer, ‘Election: God chooses his own’.

[3] See R C Sproul’s Calvinistic explanation of limited atonement in ‘TULIP and Reformed Theology: Limited Atonement’ (Accessed 18 September 2015).

[4] Calvin’s footnote at this point was:

‘“We now see why Paul speaks of all men, and thus we may judge of the folly of some who pretend to expound the Holy Scriptures, and do not understand their style, when they say, ‘And God wishes that every person should be saved; the grace of God hath appeared for the salvation of every person; it follows, then, that there is free-will, that there is no election, that none have been predestinated to salvation.’ If those men spoke it ought to be with a little more caution. Paul did not mean in this passage, or in 1Ti 2:6 anything else than that the great are called by God, though they are unworthy of it; that men of low condition, though they are despised, are nevertheless adopted by God, who stretches out his hand to receive them. At that time, because kings and magistrates were mortal enemies of the gospel, it might be thought that God had rejected them, and that they cannot obtain salvation. But Paul says that the door must not be shut against them, and that, eventually, God may choose some of this company, though their case appear to be desperate. Thus, in this passage, after speaking of the poor slaves who were not reckoned to belong to the rank of men, he says that God did not fail, on that account, to show himself compassionate towards them, and that he wishes that the gospel should be preached to those to whom men do not deign to utter a word. Here is a poor man, who shall be rejected by us, we shall hardly say, God bless him! and God addresses him in an especial manner, and declares that he is his Father, and does not merely say a passing word, but stops him to say, ‘Thou art of my flock, let my word be thy pasture, let it be the spiritual food of thy soul.’ Thus we see that this word is highly significant, when it is said that the grace of God hath appeared fully to all men.” — Fr. Ser.

[5] Cited in Bob Utley’s 2010 article, ‘The contextual method of biblical interpretation’, available at: https://bible.org/seriespage/6-contextual-method-biblical-interpretation (Accessed 17 September 2015).

[6] Hendriksen’s Calvinistic emphases are explained in, The Covenant of Grace (Hendriksen 1978).

[7] This, in my view, is a reasonable point, but does that follow through with 1 Tim 2:4 and Titus 2:11?

[8] That is not what these passages teach. It is Hendriksen’s Calvinism that is intruding into his interpretation.

[9] This section is taken from my article, Does the Bible teach limited atonement or unlimited atonement by Christ?

[10] A better translation for ‘atoning sacrifice’ would be ‘propitiation’, but many everyday readers do not understand the meaning of propitiation as appeasing the wrath of God. The ESV and NASB translate the word as ‘propitiation’ while the NRSV, ISV and NET follow the NIV with ‘atoning sacrifice’ and the RSV uses ‘expiation’.

[11] This was previously published in 1956 by Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.

 

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 17 October 2015.