All men, All people, and All things All

In the previous post, I briefly stated the self-conscious presuppositions and affirmations that those in the reformed camp take concerning the salvation of man by the Triune God. In this post I will respond to a few objections made by those who disagree with particular redemption.. This will not be an in-depth exegetical criticism (because there is plenty of that made by more capable people than me). The intention is to get those who are in fundamental disagreement to think about what we are saying in light of Scripture.


The first objection stems from the usage of the word “all” in reference to salvation. The second is the usage of the word “world”. However in this post we will deal with the objections that stem from the usage of “all”.

Those opposed to particular redemption will quote from the following passages:

a) 1 Timothy 2:3-4 “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,  who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”

i) A prima facie reading of this verse will have one scratching their heads as to how one could come to the conclusion of particular redemption, but reading the bible in this way is naive. This kind of handling of the bible is not considerate of the author’s intent, but rather allows for an importation of meanings that don’t belong. We aren’t allowed to be the final court of appeal in what the meaning of Scripture is, the Holy Spirit speaking through the particular author is.

ii) Looking at the verse within it’s context, we see that Paul is urging the believers to pray for all men. He then defines the scope of what he means by “all” which is “for kings and all who are in authority (v2). Paul is exhorting believers not to disregard those who are in authority in above them in their prayers, even under their persecution. He commanded that they specifically pray for their salvation, because it was God’s intention to save all kinds of men, regardless of who they were/are or where they came from.  As NT scholar, Alan Kurschner notes:

“Paul has in mind that God does not intend to save only one particular social class of people, but all social classes, including kings and those in authority. To read “all people” as “every single person in the world” is not warranted by the context and reveals a reading of one’s tradition and false notions into Paul’s important message to Timothy.” {1}

b) The second passage usually quoted is Titus 2:11 “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men”

i) Again many of those opposed to an intentional sacrifice of Christ will quote this verse, and expect the text to say what they believe it to say. However, Paul defines his usage of the word “all” in the text, and it would do the objector well to read it. Paul describes 7 classes of people,  from v1-9, and has commands designated to 5 of them: Older men, older women, young women, husbands, children, young men, and bondslaves. God provides the grace necessary in which these commands can be followed, otherwise it would be impossible to obey God. Doing these commands require a changed heart, which Paul goes over in 3:5-6, which is “by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior”.  The conclusion that is drawn is that God’s grace is not limited to one class of men, but to all of the classes described above, which empowers men to follow God’s commands.

c) The final text that is commonly used to support a general atonement  is 2 Peter 3:9 which says “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.”  For this I will provide a few considerations.

i) As we’ve seen before, we need to let the author define his intentions in the usage of a word, we cannot just read our own definitions into the scripture. In the whole of the book, Peter is addressing the church, and has classified two kinds of people, namely “those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (2Pe 1:1) and  “false prophets” who ” arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies,”. Seeing this distinction, biblical scholar and theologian, John Gill noted in his commentary,

” {but is longsuffering} not to all the individuals of human nature, for the persons intended by us are manifestly distinguished from “some men” in the text, and from scoffers, mocking at the promise of Christ’s coming, in the context, ( 2 Peter 3:3 2 Peter 3:4 ) ; and are expressly called beloved, ( 2 Peter 3:12 Peter 3:8 2 Peter 3:14 2 Peter 3:17 ) ; and God’s longsuffering towards them is their salvation, (2 Peter 3:15 ) , nor is it true of all men, that God is not willing that any of them should perish, and that everyone of them should come to repentance, since many of them do perish in their sins, and do not come to repentance, which would not be the case, if his determining will was otherwise; besides, a society or company of men are designed, to which the apostle himself belonged, and of which he was a part; and who are described, in his epistles, as the elect of God, called out of darkness, into marvellous light, and having obtained like precious faith with the apostles;” {2}

ii) Let’s assume, for the sake of argument,  that those opposed to this rendering are correct. That “all” in this text really means “every single individual”.  Couldn’t God just wait longer? If God is sovereign over everything except the wills of men, then He could just extend the lives of the individual long enough for them to repent. God sets the life-span of each individual, right? Or would that violate their free will, as well?