July 19, 2006

Spurgeon Chiding Some "Older Calvinists" on 1 Tim. 2:4

"God our Savior; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth."—1 Timothy 2:3, 4.

In another post, I dealt with how some Calvinists seek to convert the "all men" of 1 Timothy 2:4 into "some of all kinds of men," i.e. to mean the elect. Charles Spurgeon chides some "older Calvinistic friends" for doing that very thing in his sermon on the passage. He says:

"What then? Shall we try to put another meaning into the text than that which it fairly bears? I trow not. You must, most of you, be acquainted with the general method in which our older Calvinistic friends deal with this text. "All men," say they,—"that is, some men": as if the Holy Ghost could not have said "some men" if he had meant some men. "All men," say they; "that is, some of all sorts of men": as if the Lord could not have said "all sorts of men" if he had meant that. The Holy Ghost by the apostle has written "all men," and unquestionably he means all men. I know how to get rid of the force of the "alls" according to that critical method which some time ago was very current, but I do not see how it can be applied here with due regard to truth. I was reading just now the exposition of a very able doctor who explains the text so as to explain it away; he applies grammatical gunpowder to it, and explodes it by way of expounding it. I thought when I read his exposition that it would have been a very capital comment upon the text if it had read, "Who will not have all men to be saved, nor come to a knowledge of the truth." Had such been the inspired language every remark of the learned doctor would have been exactly in keeping, but as it happens to say, "Who will have all men to be saved," his observations are more than a little out of place. My love of consistency with my own doctrinal views is not great enough to allow me knowingly to alter a single text of Scripture. I have great respect for orthodoxy, but my reverence for inspiration is far greater. I would sooner a hundred times over appear to be inconsistent with myself than be inconsistent with the word of God. I never thought it to be any very great crime to seem to be inconsistent with myself; for who am I that I should everlastingly be consistent? But I do think it a great crime to be so inconsistent with the word of God that I should want to lop away a bough or even a twig from so much as a single tree of the forest of Scripture. God forbid that I should cut or shape, even in the least degree, any divine expression. So runs the text, and so we must read it, "God our Savior; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth."


David B. Hewitt said...

Ah, Spurgeon is very quotable. :) Yet, do you not think it is inappropriate to consider only verses 3-4 in this chapter? The whole of the context would require us to consider verses 1-7.

I do not know if Spurgeon did this or not, but would you not agree that it is critical, and to consider all the terms of the passage?

Catch you later. :)

David Hewitt

YnottonY said...

Hi David,

One can never deny that the context of any passage is important, particularly since the bible was not originally in distinct numbered verses. The flow of thought and terms must be studied carefully. However, with that said, I don't see how the surrounding verses negates Spurgeon's point, or the point of my earlier blog post on the passage.

The issue that drives some to convert "all men" into "some of all kinds of men" is theological assumptions about Christ's death and mediation in what follows. That's probably what you're referring to by brining up "the context." If "all men" means all kinds or classes of men (whether elect or not) throughout the context, then your Owenic theological presuppositions are going to be seriously challenged.

Spurgeon claims to be seeing the plain sense of the text and chides those who try to make it "some of all sorts of men," and rightly so. Nothing I see in the context can negate that point. I can see how the context of some high Calvinistic assumptions can try to negate the point.

David B. Hewitt said...

Hey, Tony. :) I haven't read much Owen, though I'm trying to. It's a bit harder read than most things I've attempted.

Anyway, you said:
"If "all men" means all kinds or classes of men (whether elect or not) throughout the context, then your Owenic theological presuppositions are going to be seriously challenged."

I see no reason in the context to think that this is referring to the elect only. Seeing it as "all kinds of men" seems to flow from the following:

1.) In verse one, Paul was telling Timothy that prayers should be made for "all people" (ESV). He then goes on to describe what he means by it in verse two.
2.) In verse two, Paul specifically mentions "kings and all who are in high positions" for the stated purpose "that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way." It would appear that Paul qualifies his use of "all people" with the category of kings. Furthermore, it doesn't seem very likely that Timothy would have understood this "all people" to be every person everywhere. At that time for sure, there were certain groups of people that believers were inclined not to like -- especially the kings. Likely, prayers for such people were not being offered as they ought to have been. So, Paul tells Timothy that his prayers ought not be limited to any one group of people, but that they should be offered for "all people." This meaning of "all people" or "all men" as I think you've mentioned before, should be carried throughout the section of verses 1-7.
3.) Therefore, what Paul is saying in verses 3 and 4 is that God desires the salvation of all kinds of people, and not every single person everywhere. I don't have a problem saying this per se from a text like Ezekiel 18:23 (which becomes a powerful argument for "two wills in God" when compared with Deuteronomy 28:63), but here because of this context I don't think one can say that.
4.) Verse seven highlights this point even more when Paul mentions the Gentiles. He says "For this" (probably referring to verses five and six) "I was appointed a preacher and an apostle.... a teacher of the Gentiles...." He likely brings up the fact that he is a teacher of the Gentiles to highlight the fact that we should be in prayer for all people in verse 1. Again, we are talking about a group of people.
5.) The fact that verse five mentions that Christ is the mediator and asks as this mediator for the people He ransomed (verse 6) indicates a problem if we say it was for all men without distinction, that is, for every single individual on the face of the earth. Of course, Christ is NOT the mediator for all people (in the universal individual sense), but only for those who believe in Him. He is only the "go between" for those who actually enter the New Covenant.
6.) The use of the word "ransom" is interesting. The word used is antilutron and it is the only time it is used in the entire New Testament. I'm not completely sure of its significance, but it is notable that Jesus used a different word for "ransom" in Mark 10:45, which was lutron, a related word. He says in Mark 10:45 that He was "a ransom for many" while Paul, using a different (though related) word says He was a ransom for "all." Perhaps the different word was used to distinguish the kind of ransom, that is, that Jesus was the ransom without distinction to "many" (lutron) while He as the ransom for all kinds of people as well (antilutron). I honestly do not know for sure, but I find it interesting nonetheless.

Spurgeon makes this statement: ""All men," say they; "that is, some of all sorts of men": as if the Lord could not have said "all sorts of men" if he had meant that." Well, the only thing is, who are we to ask really? I love Spurgeon, and have found many blessings in the few things I've read by him (just excepts like this one). However, just because Paul didn't spell it out for us doesn't mean that he wasn't using the term in a more general sense. Timothy would have understood it that way (as I have argued briefly), and therefore there was no need for Paul to spell it out. Paul's intimate friendship with Timothy and knowledge of Timothy's situation is something we are not privy to, but the context gives us some insight into it.

Anyway, there is the argument. :) I didn't get it from Owen either. ;-) I also fail to understand how it would attack the intent of the atonement as in only being for the elect. There are of course elect from all peoples, so I truly see no problem.

Oh well, all for now. I've talked to long anyway. :)

David Hewitt