If Scripture says everyone, can we still be particular?

This is partially a discussion on Universalism and Hell as well as Calvinism and Arminianism.

In the New Testament, we find that the writers used the inclusive ‘all’ a great deal when it comes to Christ’s mission.

NAU  John 1:9 There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.

NLT  John 1:9 The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.

NAU  John 1:29 The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

NLT  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!

NAU  John 3:17 “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

NLT  John 3:17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

NAU  John 12:32 “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”

NLT  John 12:32 And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”

NAU  John 12:47 “If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.

NLT  John 12:47 I will not judge those who hear me but don’t obey me, for I have come to save the world and not to judge it.

NAU  Romans 5:18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.

NLT  Romans 5:18 Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone.

NAU  Romans 11:32 For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.

NLT  Romans 11:32 For God has imprisoned everyone in disobedience so he could have mercy on everyone.

NAU  1 Corinthians 15:22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.

NLT  1 Corinthians 15:22 Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life.

NAU  2 Corinthians 5:19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

NLT  2 Corinthians 5:19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.

NAU  Colossians 1:20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

NLT  Colossians 1:20 and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

NAU  1 Timothy 2:6 who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.

NLT  1 Timothy 2:6 He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time.

NAU  1 Timothy 4:10 For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.

NLT  1 Timothy 4:10 This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers.

NAU  Hebrews 2:9 But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.

NLT  Hebrews 2:9 What we do see is Jesus, who was given a position “a little lower than the angels”; and because he suffered death for us, he is now “crowned with glory and honor.” Yes, by God’s grace, Jesus tasted death for everyone.

NAU  1 John 2:2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

NLT  1 John 2:2 He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins– and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.

It may be said, rightly, that this contains a great deal of proof-texting, but in these passages is a clear understanding that Christ died for the world, tasting death for everyone, redeeming all. Have we drawn a line not in Scripture?

The question which keeps rolling around in my head is about the power of Christ. If by the sin of Adam, misery and death reigns upon Creation, and if the blood of Christ is the one thing that can redeem – who or what is more powerful? Is it the sin of Adam or the blood of Christ? If Adam’s sin can destroy to the uttermost and envelope everyone for all time, then is the blood of Christ only good for a rather small portion?

Post By Joel Watts (10,115 Posts)

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Website: → Unsettled Christianity

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67 thoughts on “If Scripture says everyone, can we still be particular?

  1. Yes, the corporate is both Barth and Schleiermacher, and this true, but there is also the individual election as St. Paul, and note, 1 Tim. 1: 16, St. Paul is the “foremost”..”example” for those who believe.

    • For those who gravitate to universalism, as many of the early Church leaders did, I would say that suffering for spreading the Gospel would be for the City in the end. In Revelation, all of humanity ends up on earth – so some might say – but those who came to Christ here remain in the city there while everyone else remains without the city.

      There is always the Jewish fear as well that while most will be redeemed, there will be some that simply cannot be.

        • He is speaking of Judas, who did perish from the 12, or rather, ran into destruction. I don’t suppose that this has anything really to do with universalism, rather God’s sovereignty in the action of Judas.

          • It was Judas for certain! But I would surely disagree about it connection with universalism, at least to show the negative there. For as the text strongly implies, Judas was “destined” to perish, and he is quite literally called, “the son of perdition! And Christ did not “guard” (lit. “I(Christ) kept watch” – for the others) him. Also note, it was not so much the sin of Judas, though that is applied somewhat, but “that the scripture might be fufilled.”! God in Christ could have kept and then even forgiven him after, but HE did not!

          • But, Fr. Robert, it still doesn’t have a connection to universalism. I believe that it is in the immediate context of the 12. Further, there are other issues with Judas.

          • Joel,
            I can see this in some secondary causality, but since the context of the whole chapter is the redemptive people & Church of God, whom the Apostles also represent, I see this in the negative for any universalism, or even universal salvation! (17:9, etc.) It is a High Priesty Prayer for the Body of Christ, alone. (17:20). And this is a prayer that will see the Redeemed with the Lord too, (17: 24). Finally, the absence and loss of Judas is a tremendous statement and reality!

          • Is it? Or is it necessary to bring about the Passion of Christ? I understand your position, but I also see room for Judas, given Tradition and the holes in the Gospel concerning his story.

          • As I said, in the causality of cause and effect God chose to use Judas to, in some way get to the Passion & Death of Christ. But God certainly could have used some other ways and means also. Certainly Judas is left in his selfish, sinful mindset and habits and God “uses” it for His end. Which also includes the lose of Judas. Judas is a good example of God’s Infralapsarian use, to leave the non-elect in their fallen state. And God allows and uses those for His grand example and purpose! (Rom. 9:17-18)

          • But, Fr. Robert, was Judas not a fulfillment of God’s plan? I do not believe that God leaves people in a state and then consigns them to hell for something against their choice. Is this really in the nature of God?

          • Joel,
            Check out “Infralapsarian”, God does not “make” people do evil, but he foresees it, and uses it for His purpose. In the infralapsarian view, God does leave the non-elect in their place since the fall..sinners. And thus judges them by their works, which without Christ, they are certainly “reprobate”. In the mystery of man, and good & evil, and God’s elective grace, this Calvinist position works best to my mind and the Scripture. I have spent years grapling with this mystery! And it seems I always return to this place and position. I don’t speak with ease here! Like Calvin said, the decree was ” a horrible decree” – decretum quidem horrible fateor, but it was God’s!

          • Fr. Robert, I simply do not see that in the nature of God – to foreknow someone is going to hell and do nothing to stop them. There is more to this subject than what can be summed up in a few short blog comments – I mean, look at Protestantism for the past 500 years.

          • Yes, it is a hard doctrine for sure, but Augustine saw it that way also. I admit it seems a very hard thing. But, the other side that God is just a lover without any absolute sense of holiness, which I see in certain mystical strains of Orthodoxy is false. My life experience seems to run near that aspect of God’s sovereignty that HE is just so completely other, that is HE can do as HE pleases. I should say, that meeting God as totally sovereign was like another conversion, so many years ago. Richard Muller has a book worth reading on this subject called: Christ And The Decree, Christology And Predestination In Reformed Theology From Calvin To Perkins. To my mind the 16th century and the Reformed theology was something most profound! The Reformation is a constant biblical sense of Reforming. Our correction is in Scripture, and “Spirit & Truth”. (John 4 / 2 Tim. 3:16) And as Calvin said, “the Church is the Mother of us all”, i.e. Christians.

          • I don’t think it is a ‘hard doctrine’, just one which is best explored elsewhere. Further, I do not believe that God can do as He pleases. Because He is holy, and His nature doesn’t change, even God would have limitations in how He approaches things. Is it in God’s nature to destroy or torment those who He could not help?

          • But God is not a dualist, so the mystery really does lie in God..the doctrine of God, and perhaps theodicy. And God certainly cannot be limited, nor does He limit Himself, not even at Calvary and the Cross! And Kenosis has been so overworked in theology, sadly.

          • But God is limited, even Scripture says that. He cannot go beyond His nature, can He? Could He lie? No.

  2. Joel,
    You and I will have to disagree here, the doctrine of God demands that God be God! And the first place is the reality of the Immutability of God! This is the doctrine of the Judeo-Christian God…”Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Tim.1:17 / also 6:15-16…”who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see..etc.” (verse 16) No, the doctrine of God is first place that HE is totally-other! Is the creation a limitation of God? Is the Incarnation even so? Not really, as we see or hear of Jesus walking on the water, healing the blind, raising the dead, etc. Note, John 3:13.

    And of course God cannot lie, but He is not bound by our understanding of even His so-called ethics. He can always transcend His own statements into a place we have yet to fathom or measure! (Rom. 11:33-36)

    • But, Fr. Robert, God is bound by His own nature, just as He cannot lie. God has a holiness code which He will not break. He is love, justice, and mercy. Is this not His nature, and if so, can He break those things? I think not.

      • Joel,
        This is not any easy subject I admit, but one that Christians must grapple with, especially we who preach & teach.

        As I made reference, God does transcend His own statements sometimes, or simply cannot be figured out as I also made reference. Who can really define God’s nature? Certainly we can to a point, but then we are often left in full mystery. And God does not tell us for example why He allowed evil? He simply did, and does. But He is always sovereign over it. I don’t have all the answers here, but I am simply closer to both Calvin and Augustine on this most profound subject, which is always on the doctrine of God the Almighty! The Pauline texts from Romans 9, and then 11: 33-36, are simply so profound! As Luther said, we must let God be God! – No one article of faith is believed without all the other articles.” (Luther)

        • But, Fr. Robert, how can God transcend His own nature? If He is holy, can He be unholy? Or righteous and then unrighteous?

          It is because that He he righteous, that He gave Christ for us and because He is Holy that He had too.

          Augustine and Calvin were okay, but give me Cassian and the East, here.

          BTW – I got Ware’s book finally.

          • Joel,
            Its not so much that God transcends Himself, as HE transcends or elevates His Word, in its meaning. The final authority or place is the mystery of God Himself! Again, why does God allow evil, but in the end to glorify Himself! So I will quote Rom. 9:21 again, and go get me a bite to eat. (Again, it is always the Text for me, and the Text takes us to this place of finality and mystery! Here is God’s Transcendence..)

          • There is a difference in allowing Evil and contributing to evil. This is Text as well – not Calvin or Augustine or Wesley of Jacobus Arminius.

  3. If the prophets of Israel prophesied to Israel, then the restorative and redemptive promises made by the prophets were specific to Israel. I believe the problem lies in our inability (or unwillingness) to apply the promises to Israel alone (Romans 9:3-5). These were promises related to a people, a time, and a place. It was THEIR world, not spherical planet earth.

    Here is another clue: if the 144,000 were to be the firstfruits of the redeemed, and the 144,000 have not yet been assembled, what is the context of redemption today? How can we say we are redeemed, when the process has not yet begun?

    • First, you assume a literal understanding of 144,00. I would disagree with you.

      Second, you exclude Grace, during which Israel has been expanded to include Gentiles. The promises of Israel are given in large part, to the Church.

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