John Four

Posted: May 30, 2011 in John

            “All means all, all the time!”

            I cannot tell you the number of times I have heard this typically emotion-laden assertion, usually in conjunction with some sort of claim about Jesus dying for all men, which is a common argument between monergistic and synergistic Christians. If you’re curious about those terms, google ‘em. Regardless of the context within which this phrase is used, what I want to explore is whether or not it’s even usable.

            John four contains the awesome encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman, and we find this woman running back to her family and saying, “come see a man who told me all I ever did.”

            Really? Everything? How long a conversation would that have taken? In verse forty-five we see Galileans who had seen “all Jesus had done in Jerusalem.” All, huh? Every last little thing that Jesus did? Were they watching him sleep, following his actions 24/7? Of course not. So even 2000 years ago we see the word “all” used figuratively, rather than literally. If “all means all, all the time,” imagine the implications of the following verse: 

          John 8:2 “Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them.

            Now, if all means all, than millions of people world-wide arrived at the temple to listen to Jesus. There were no cars back then, so Jesus would have been waiting for quite some time, haha!

          I know I’m bordering on sheer facetiousness, but I’m trying to establish that “all” means nothing without taking its context into consideration. My in-laws are in town today, and we’re all going to the lake today. Who is “all”? My family. That’s here. In a staff meeting when the boss asks if we’re all here, is he referring to every human being on the planet? Of course not- he’s referring to everyone expected to attend the meeting.

           My point is this: all means all, but only all of a particular group. Sometimes all means the entirety of the human race, other times it clearly does not, as in Acts 2:1, which says “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.” Our job as students of the Bible is to put our thinking caps on and determine what God means in His Word. To simply echo what is said is almost useless apart from knowing what was meant.

          Here’s a perfect example: Some theologians quote 2 Peter 3:9 and say that God is “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance!” Which is true. It’s what the Bible says, so of course it’s true. But what they do is use this passage in support of their idea of “God wants everyone to be saved, period!” Now, any student of the Bible sees an immediate problem. Not everyone is saved, and some do perish, and not everyone repents…so God is very clearly not getting what He wants.

          There are three primary ways in which this passage has been understood, one of which I just mentioned: obviously God is simply incapable of getting what He wants. Somehow the God who spoke the universe into existence is incapable of saving everyone he made, because for some reason He just can’t seem to convince the majority of mankind that He is worth loving and obeying. Well, when you acknowledge that faith and repentance are gifts given by God, and obviously God can give these gifts to the entire human race, it’s purely foolish to think that God is eternally stymied by His own creation.

          The second way to understand this is that God has more than one will. Namely, God has a decretive, sovereign will, a moral will, and a permissive will. Thus, while God does not want to see anyone perish, much like a parent does not want to inflict pain upon their child, God will follow through with eternal punishment, just as a loving parent will spank their child to correct their behavior. So…this means that while God doesn’t want people to perish, He more wants them to…perish. Yeah. Doesn’t make much sense to me, either. God wants to save everyone, but not enough to actually do it. He wants everyone to repent, but not enough to give them said repentance.

          The third way comes by examining the context. Let’s see the entirety of the verse: “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” We see right away that “all” is in reference, not to the entire human race, but to “you.” Who is Peter writing to? We see in verse one of this book this: “Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” And the promise that Peter is speaking of? We see in 2 Peter 3:1-13 that Peter is referring to Jesus’ promise to come back. Put into its proper context, this is what Peter is saying in 2 Peter 3:9- “Jesus is not purposely dragging his feat and delaying his return, but rather is allowing his people (you) the time necessary to bring them all to repentance so that they not perish.”

            See the difference? Again, let us all be diligent to understand what God has said. It might just surprise you how much we’ve misunderstood.

  1. […] is some bonus reading concerning 2 Peter 3:9) Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted in 2 […]

  2. […]             Clearly, I think both interpretations are wrong. The problem is that neither side wants to establish the extent of “all”, which is flawed because all always means all of a particular context- not “all without question”. See here for another example of this. […]

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