DISARMING ARMINIAN'S "TRINITY" OF PROOF TEXTS: 2 OF 3
by Jeff Hagan
(Tacoma, WA, USA)
Two: 1 Timothy 2:3-4, “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 truth” (ESV).
In this passage I must admit at first glance it appears to support those who oppose Calvinism. The “plain meaning,” if you will, does look like it gives credence to our opponents. So, it's only fair to say in this case the burden of proof lies with us Calvinists. I can handle and accept that, so here we go.
The traditional reformed interpretation of this particular verse is that the “all people” being referred to is “all kinds of people” which means all kinds of people despite their gender, race, social class, and the like. The reason for supporting it in this manner is twofold: 1) Paul has a habit, or pattern, of using the term in this fashion and he is the author of this epistle; 2) to interpret it differently forces one to believe that Jesus tries to save but can fail.
For exegetical purposes let's go through Paul's pattern mentioned above:
Titus 2:2 - “Older men are to be sober-minded... (3) Older women likewise are to be... (4) and so train the young women to... (6) Likewise, urge the younger men to be... (9) Slaves are to be... (11) For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,... 3:1 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities...”.
This passage clearly shows Paul using all people as all kinds of people. It is really not unusual to find this kind of language in a culture that is so divided by race, gender, social class, etc. Let's move on to some more examples from Paul in to show this is a pattern of his.
Acts 22:15, “For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard” (NASB).
In this example we have Dr. Luke recording Paul's version of the charge Ananias placed before him. Is it most plausible for “all men” here to be referring to every single person in the entire world? Or, does it make much more sense for the meaning here to be men from every tribe and nation? Let's move forward as there are other places as well where Paul uses this type of terminology for categories of people with the simple use of “all.”
Colossians 3:11, “Here there is not Greek or Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all” (ESV).
Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (ESV).
In Acts 21:28 do we see Paul being accused of preaching to every single person everywhere as the non-Calvinist use of “all” would imply? Here's the verse: “crying out, 'Men of Israel, come to our aid! This is the man who preaches to all men everywhere against our people, and the Law, and this place; and besides he has even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place” (NASB).
So, back to the number two text of the Arminian “trinity” of proof texts being discussed. Is there any reason for us to think Paul is indeed talking about kinds and categories of people as opposed to “all meaning all and that's all all means?” Yes, there is. Again, context is key:
1 Timothy 2:1-4, “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 come to the knowledge of the truth” (ESV).
The question that needs to be asked is this, “Is Paul urging Timothy to pray for every single person in the world?” Pay attention to what Paul says, “for kings and all who are in high positions.” Christians who are being persecuted and condemned are being urged here to include the very people persecuting them (kings and high officials) in their prayers. Paul is including a specific category of people instead of excluding them.
Even more troubling is the second item pointed out in our twofold reasons stated above: Jesus tries to save but fails to do so. As is pointed out by Dr. James White in his book, The Potter's Freedom, “In its simplest terms the Reformed belief is this: Christ's death saves sinners. It does not make the salvation of sinners a mere possibility. It does not provide a theoretical atonement. It requires no additions, whether they be the meritorious works of me or the autonomous act of faith flowing from a 'free will.' Christ's death saves every single person that it was intended to save” (p.230).
Now would be a great time to add John 6:37-40 to the equation:
“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (ESV).
I submit in light of this passage, there is no other conclusion that can intelligibly be reached. This passage leaves absolutely no room for failure in the salvation of those souls procured by God.
So, to sum up the information regarding this second “proof text,” what we actually find in 1 Timothy 2:1-4 is an encouragement from Paul to Timothy instructing him to include the kings and high officials in his prayers.