Not Willing To Change I Tim 2:4 to Satisfy Spurgeon
"However, as is the case with Spurgeon, I am not willing to change the meaning of Scripture just to satisfy my theological convictions."
Some on this list reader might be surprised that Spurgeon took the Arminian view of this passage. This of course does not mean that Spurgeon is lost. It does mean that Spurgeon is wrong. But read for yourself Spurgeon's assumption that he is right:
You must, most of you, be acquainted with the general method in which our older Calvinistic friends deal with this text. "All men," they say,Ė"that is some men": as if the Holy Ghost could not have said "some men" if he had meant some men. "All men," say they; that is, some of all sorts of men"; as if the Lord could not have said "All sorts of men" if he had meant that. The Holy Ghost by the apostle has written "all men," and unquestionably he means all men. . . . As it is my wish that it should be so, as it is your wish that it might be so, so it is Godís wish that all men should be saved; for, assuredly, he is not less benevolent than we are. . . . It is Godís wish that the sick should not suffer. Do you doubt it? Is it not your own wish? And yet the Lord does not work a miracle to heal every sick person. It is Godís wish that his creatures should be happy. Do you deny that? He does not interpose by any miraculous agency to make us all happy, and yet it would be wicked to suppose that he does not wish the happiness of all the creatures that he has made.
Hugh L. Williams, in his excellent article on this sermon, puts forth the Calvinist reaction to Spurgeonís assertion: "This is wrong. The Holy Ghost did not by the apostle write Ďall men.í He wrote pantas anthropous. Now the question is what does the phrase mean." Williams goes on to show that this undoubtedly means "all without distinction" rather than "all without exception."
But more of what Spurgeon thinks he knows: He has an infinite benevolence which, nevertheless, is not in all points worked out by his infinite omnipotence; and if anybody asked me why it is not, I cannot tell..."
He can tell you dogmatically what the texts means: when confronted with contradiction, instead of examining again his view, he accepts contradiction. Spurgeon labels those who do not accept that the Bible contains contradiction as rationalists: "Those who will only believe what they can reconcile will necessarily disbelieve much of divine revelation. They are, without knowing it, following the lead of the rationalists. Those who receive by faith anything which they find in the Bible will receive two things, twenty things, ay, or twenty thousand things, though they cannot construct a theory which harmonizes them."
So let's examine what a "hyper Calvinist" says about I Tim 2:4. I quote John Calvin: "This passage of the apostle (1 Tim. ii. 4) was long ago brought forth by the Pelagians, and handled against us with all their might. . . . I have nevertheless extorted from Pighius this much: that no one but a man deprived of his common judgment can believe that salvation was ordained by the secret counsel of God equally and indiscriminately for all men. The true meaning of Paul, however, in this passage now under consideration is perfectly clear and intelligible to every one who is not determined on contention. The apostle is exhorting that all solemn "supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men: for kings and all that are in authority."
"Who does not see that the apostle here is speaking of orders of men rather than of individuals? Indeed, that distinction which commentators here make is not without great reason and point; that nations of individuals, not individuals of nations, are here intended by Paul. . . ."
"But Paul teaches us (continues Georgius) that God 'would have all men to be saved.' It follows, therefore, according to his understanding of that passage, either that God is disappointed in His wishes, or that all men without exception must be saved. If he should reply that God wills all men to be saved on His part, or as far as He is concerned, seeing that salvation is, nevertheless, left to the free will of each individual; I, in return, ask him why, if such be the case, God did not command the Gospel to be preached indiscriminately from the beginning of the world? why he suffered so many generations of men to wander for so many ages in all the darkness of death? ..."
Copyright © 2000 by Mark McCulley. All rights reserved.