By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen
First Baptist Church
In a previous post, I presented Biblical evidence that the Gospel is for everyone, not just for a select group as claimed by 4 and 5-point Calvinists. Let me briefly go back over those verses. In that post, we considered that Matthew 28:18 – 20 says disciples are to be made of all nations. This means that the Lord wants everyone, not only some, in all nations to become his disciple, and each person can become one by believing in him. Next, we considered Mark 16:15, which tells us the Gospel is to be preached to every creature. That is, to every human being. But why? It is because the Lord wants everyone, not just some, to hear and believe the Gospel. Next, we considered Luke 24:47, in which Jesus Christ said that repentance and remission (forgiveness) of sins should be preached in his name among all nations. This is to be done, because he wants everyone, not just some, to repent, and thereby receive forgiveness of sins. Next, we considered John 1:29, in which we are told that John the Baptist said Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, not just of some. Then, we considered John 3:16. This might be the world’s most well-known Bible verse. It tells us of God’s love for the world, not for just of some of the world. And it tells us his love motivated him to send Jesus Christ into the world, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Now, I will present more Biblical evidence that the Gospel is for everyone. The 15th verse of the 1st chapter of the apostle Paul’s letter to Timothy is such evidence. Here is what 1 Timothy 1:15 says: “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” Now, since the Bible says that all of us are sinners (See, for example, Romans 3;10 and 23,) verse 15 leads us to conclude that Christ Jesus came into the world to save all sinners. Since we are sinners, we are the ones whom the Lord came into the world to save. However, as many Biblical statements teach, we must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved. Salvation is received in no other way. Read, for example, John 3;16 – 18, and verse 36, and also Acts 16:30 and 31.
The 3rd and 4th verses of chapter 2 of Paul’s letter 1st letter to Timothy are proof that the Gospel is for everyone. In 1st Timothy 2:3 and 4 we read that God our savior “will have all men (persons) to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” Since in this verse the plain sense of Scripture makes sense, we need seek no other sense of the meaning of it. That being so, we must conclude that it means what it says, and says what it means, which is this: God our Savior “will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” But many Calvinists are not content to take these statements at face value. Consider the following quotes from an American, current-day pastor, preacher and author with a great deal of influence around the world, namely, John MacArthur. He is quoted in this post as representative of 5-point Calvinism. Here is part of what he says on 1 Timothy 2:4: “The Greek word for desires is not that which normally expresses God’s will of decree (His eternal purpose), but God’s will of desire. There is a distinction between God’s desire and His eternal saving purpose, which must transcend His desires.” Later in his comments on this verse, he said this: “In His eternal purpose, He chose only the elect out of the world (John 17:6) and passed over the rest, leaving them to the consequences of their sin, unbelief, and rejection of Christ (cf. Rom. 1:18 – 32). Ultimately, God’s choices are determined by His sovereign, eternal purpose, not His desires. See note on 2 Peter 3:9.” These quotes are from the 1-volume MacArthur Bible Commentary. But a more trustworthy explanation is what the NKJV (New King James Version) Study Bible says on this verse’s statement that God desires all men to be saved. It says this “does not mean that God has willed that everyone should come to salvation, for elsewhere Paul clearly teaches that only those who believe in Christ will receive salvation (see Rom. 1:16, 17; 3:21 – 26; 5:17). This is also the clear teaching of Jesus (John 3:15 – 18). Thus universal salvation is not the determinative will of God by which he sovereignly rules the world. Instead what Paul might be saying here is that the Savior God extends the offer of salvation to all. Christ died for the sins of all, but only those who believe receive the benefits of that sacrifice (see John 3:16; 2 Cor. 5:14, 15).”
What Paul wrote in verses 5 & 6 of the 2nd chapter of his 1st letter to Timothy also proves the Gospel is for everyone. 1 Timothy 2:5 & 6 says this: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” What does the Greek word translated “ransom” mean? The Greek dictionary in Strongest Strong’s Concordance says it means “the purchase price to bring liberation from oppression; it is the means to redemption. This refers to Jesus (in person and work) as the price of salvation.” For how many was this ransom paid? The verse says Christ “gave himself a ransom for all.” What does that mean? It means the obvious: Christ Jesus “gave himself a ransom for all.” Is it a mistake to take this verse at face value? No. Since the plain sense of Scripture makes sense in this verse, do we have any reason to seek any other sense of the meaning of this verse? No. But Calvinists don’t accept the plain sense of this verse, and so they must give it another sense. Here is part of what the 1-volume MacArthur Bible Commentary says on this verse: “Not all will be ransomed (though His death would be sufficient), but only the many who believe by the work of the Holy Spirit and for whom the actual atonement was made.” Well, we who are not Calvinists also believe that sinners must believe in Christ for the ransom and atonement to do them any good. But, unlike 5-point Calvinists, we believe Christ gave himself a ransom for all, and we believe the atonement was made for all, including those who never believe in Christ. We also believe that if they do not avail themselves of the ransom and atonement made by the Lord jesus Christ, it is of their own free choice to not believe the truth. This in clear contrast to 5-point Calvinists such as MacArthur, who, in his commentary on 1 Timothy 2:6 says this: “Because Christ’s expiation of sin is indivisible, inexhaustible, and sufficient to cover the guilt of all the sins that will ever be committed, God can clearly offer it to all. Yet, only the elect will respond and be saved, according to His eternal purpose (cf. John 17;21).” Maybe you need to re-read MacArthur’s comment, and then answer this question: how can this be a sincere offer of the Gospel to all, when only those whom God has chosen “will respond and be saved, according to His eternal purpose” ? If our church put an ad in the local paper which said, “First Baptist Church invites everyone in Spearfish, SD to a free Thanksgiving Dinner,” but only certain ones had been predestined to enjoy the dinner, would that invitation be sincere? Of course not. How, then, are we to believe the Calvinist’s claim that God’s offer of the Gospel to everyone is sincere, when only certain ones have been predestined to accept it?
What the apostle Paul wrote in verse 10 of the 4th chapter of his 1st letter to Timothy is more proof that the Gospel is for everyone. 1 Timothy 4:10 says this: “For therefore we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, specially of those that believe.” Does this verse teach that God is the Savior of only some men (persons), or does it say he is the Savior of all of them? It says what it means, and means what is says. It is an all-inclusive statement: God “is the Savior of all men (persons).” This is similar to other statements found in the Bible, such as what what John the Baptist said about Jesus Christ: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1;29.) Both are all-inclusive statements. However, such statements do not mean God will save anyone without their doing what must be done to be saved. Just as Paul said in 1st timothy 4:10: God is the Savior of all men, specially of those who believe.” He wants to save everyone, but he saves only those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. The Zondervan KJV Study Bible (its exact title, and not to be confused with other study Bibles with similar-sounding titles) has a good note on this verse. It says this: “Obviously this does not mean that God saves every person from eternal punishment, for such universalism would contradict the clear testimony of Scripture. God is, however, the Savior of all in that He offers salvation to all and saves all who come to Him.” But how does 5-point Calvinist John MacArthur explain this verse? His comments are quite long, so only part of them will be given here. In his 1-volume wrote MacArthur Bible Commentary he wrote: “The simple explanation is that God is the Savior of all people, only in a temporal sense, while of believers in an eternal sense.” To this, I reply: Although in this verse the plain sense of Scripture makes sense, MacArthur had to seek another sense of it to fit it into his 5-point Calvinism. If he had let the verse say what it says, his conclusion would have been very different.
The 9th verse of the 3rd chapter of the apostle Peter’s second letter is another proof that the Gospel is for everyone. 2 Peter 3;9 says this: “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men cont slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward (toward us), not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Taking this verse to mean what it says, and that it says what it means, most readers rightly conclude that God does not want anyone to perish, but wants them all to come to repentance. This means, he does not want anyone to perish in hell as the consequence of their sins, but wants them all to admit they are sinners, and wants them all to avoid eternal hell by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior. But 5-point Calvinists must interpret this verse in a very different way in order to fit it into their theological system. If you want to read an example of how they do this, read the notes on this verse in the 1-volume MacArthur Bible Commentary, or the notes in his study Bible. To summarize his notes, he says the verse is referring to those whom God has chosen to save. It is they, not all sinners, whom God is giving time to come to repentance.
The 2nd verse of the 2nd chapter of the apostle John’s 1st letter is another proof that the Gospel is for everyone. 1 John 2:1 and 2 says this: “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” What does the word “propitiation” mean? The 1-volume Believer’s Bible Commentary, written by William MacDonald and edited by Art Farstad, says this: “This means that by dying for us, He freed us from the guilt of our sins and restored us to God by providing the needed satisfaction and by removing every barrier to fellowship. God can show mercy to us because Christ has satisfied the claims of justice.” This is well said. For how many persons did jesus Christ become the propitiation for their sins? A few? Several? Many? The verse answers the question, for it clearly says this: “he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” Keep in mind that important principle of interpreting the Bible: “If the plain sense of Scripture makes sense, seek no other sense.” But, once again, 5-point Calvinists must seek another sense of a Biblical statement than the plain sense of it. Here is part of what the 1-volume MacArthur Bible Commentary says on 1 John 2:2’s words “for the whole world”: “This is a generic term, referring not to every single individual, but to mankind in general. Christ actually paid the penalty only for those who would repent and believe.” It might be good for you to re-read his comment: “This is a generic term, referring not to every single individual, but to mankind in general. Christ actually paid the penalty only for those who would repent and believe.” And who do Calvinists say are the ones who will repent and believe? Only the ones God has chosen to cause to repent and believe.
The 14th verse of the 4th chapter of the apostle John 1st letter is another Biblical proof that the Gospel is for everyone. 1 John 4:14 says this: “And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.” Jesus Christ is called “the Savior of the world” in only one other verse in the Bible: John 4:42. And this is a very significant statement about him, for it tells how many persons God the Father sent him to save by his death and resurrection: every person in the world! He came to save every man, woman, boy, and girl of every nationality, skin color, education, and social status. Not one person has been left out! However, as previously stated, we must do what must be done for us to be saved. We read in the 16th chapter of the Bible’s Book of Acts that a jail keeper asked two Christians missionaries, Paul and Silas, a very important question: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They promptly told him the only correct answer: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved…..” Yes, God the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. That includes you, me, and everyone else. But have you believed in him to be saved? The Believer’s Bible Commentary has a good quote on this verse from Bible scholar, W. E. Vine. It says this: “W. E. Vine wrote that ‘the scope of His mission was as boundless as humanity, and only man’s impenitence and unbelief put a limit to its actual effect.” I do not find a note on 1 John 4:14 in John MacArthur’s 1-volume commentary.
In conclusion, it is hoped that the many Biblical verses presented in this study have proven my point: the Gospel is for everyone, in contrast to the theology of Calvinism!