Question:

I have some questions about Calvanism if you can please help me with.

I was talking to a friend who believes in Calvinism (or some form of it) and we were talking about God wanting all men saved in regards to whether God chooses to save some above others. I told him that God wants all men saved so I think that wouldn't make it possible that God only chooses some to saved if He wants all men saved. (Of course God can powerfully do anything He wants, but I'm going by what He tells us in His word). When I mentioned "all" desired to be saved by God, my friend went on to say that the Greek insinuates that "all" represents the "elect of God" and not every human being. What do you believe "all" to represent? Does the Greek say something else?

My friend went on to say that God can have two motives at once, desiring all to be saved while at the same time choosing who to save, and that we just need to confess that it doesn't make sense to us and just accept it.

He also said he's not sure "saved" in I Timothy 2:4's context refers to salvation, and said it may be referring to people living until they have a chance to repent. I told him God wants them to come to a knowledge of the truth and he asked if the verse is saying the same thing twice. (saved and coming to a knowledge of the truth). Though I'm unsure how to respond to that, I told him the verse was expanding on being saved, though I may have said something incorrect. What does I Timothy 2:4 refer to?

He then went on to say that we don't have the Greek so we don't know exactly how I Timothy 2:4 is written there and that many Greek phrases are difficult to understand. Do we really know the exact Greek rendering of I Timothy 2:4?

A big point that my friend mentioned throughout the conversation was that he believes God put things in the Bible that nobody is able to understand. I wonder if he meant to say that in reference to passages such as I Timothy 2:4 regarding giving people choice to choose God in contrast to God choosing men to saved. What do you think about this belief?

Sorry for all the questions, I hope it's not too much. I'd like to know how I can share the truth with my friend.


Answer:

"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (II Peter 3:9).

Because the Lord doesn't want any to perish, He is longsuffering so that all should come to repentance. This implies some of "all" are currently perishing. The delay that all should repent, but that implies that the repentance is not guaranteed and some of the all will not repent even with God's long suffering.

So let's just assume that your friend is right that "all" is limited to the elect. He then is claiming that people can be elect and not saved and that while God wants the elect saved, some will not repent and won't be saved. In other words, the Calvanist's stance that God is so sovereign that nothing goes against His desire doesn't stand. His position is inconsistent and self-contradictory.

Clearly Peter has in mind both the saved and the unsaved. His current focus is on the unsaved -- those who have not repented, but should. God has His desire, but some will not do as God prefers. This matches other statements by God. ""Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways," says the Lord GOD. "Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. "Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies," says the Lord GOD. "Therefore turn and live!"" (Ezekiel 18:30-32). Ezekiel makes it clear, the choice of salvation is up to man. God has made His choice, now it is up to man to decide to follow God or not.

Your friends second position is merely word games. He realizes that he can be proven wrong concerning II Peter 3:9, so he is seeking a back-up position. But that back-up position contradicts his original statement. He can't have the first and second position at the same time.

Can a person have multiple motives at the same time? Certainly! But only if those motives are compatible. Your friends is claiming that God can have incompatible motives or goals at the same time, but we call such people fickle, unable to make up their minds, or asking for the impossible. Such doesn't describe God. The only one who is inconsistent is him, but that is only because he will not consider that his position is wrong.

When a person claims something has to be a certain way, but no one can understand it, then he is really saying he has no clue what he is talking about. He also contradicts God's command: "Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is" (Ephesians 5:17). Unwittingly he is also putting himself in the category of people Peter warned us against: "Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation -- as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures" (II Peter 3:14-16). "Hard to understand" does not mean impossible to understand.

"For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (I Timothy 2:3-4).

When "saved" doesn't mean "salvation" to a person, it tells me that the person doesn't understand words. "Saved" in I Timothy 2:4 is sozo (yes, we do know what the Greek is in this passage). It is the same word used in "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him" (John 3:16-17). By the way, notice who might be saved: the world -- not the elect. It is consistent to say in II Peter 3:9 that "all" refers to the whole world.

Isn't it amazing that a verse can be translated into perfectly understandable English, but because it says something that contradicts his position, he declares the Greek is not understandable. So then why is this verse consistently translated in English? If he can't understand the Greek, then how can he take the position that the translation is misleading or bad? He is arguing from what he claims he doesn't know -- a false position.

Here is what a A. T. Robertson said about this passage (Robertson was a Baptist, by the way):

Willeth (thelei). God's wish and will in so far as he can influence men.

That all men should be saved (pantas anthrôpous sôthênai). First aorist passive infinitive of sôzô with accusative of general reference. See 1Co 10:33; 2Co 5:18.

To the knowledge (eis epignôsin). "The full knowledge" as in Col 1:6; Eph 4:13 (ten times in Paul). See 2Ti 3:7 for the whole phrase "full knowledge of the truth" (alêtheia 14 times in the Pastorals). Paul is anxious as in Colossians and Ephesians that the Gnostics may not lead the people astray. They need the full intellectual apprehension of Christianity.

Jamieson, Faucet, and Brown said this in their commentary:

"Imitate God." Since He wishes that all should be saved, do you also wish it; and if you wish it, pray for it. For prayer is the instrument of effecting such things [CHRYSOSTOM]. Paul does not say, "He wishes to save all"; for then he would have saved all in matter of fact; but "will have all men to be saved," implies the possibility of man's accepting it (through God's prevenient grace) or rejecting it (through man's own perversity). Our prayers ought to include all, as God's grace included all.

to come--They are not forced.

unto the knowledge--Greek, "the full knowledge" or "recognition" (See on JFB for 1Co 13:12; Php 1:9).

the truth--the saving truth as it is in, and by, Jesus (Joh 17:3,17).

If God said that He put things in His word that nobody can understand, please provide the reference to this. Meanwhile, I will contend that he contradicted God's command to understand His will (Ephesians 5:17). The ones who have trouble understanding are the untaught and the unstable.

Have you noticed that the only "hard" passages are the ones he doesn't believe?