The Bible and the Meaning of “All” and “World” (Calvinism)

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Some argue that when the Bible uses the word “all” or “world,” it is referring to every single person in the world. One Arminian has said, “All means all and that’s all all means.” However, this is simply not true. The word “all” rarely, if ever, has no limitation.

Bible Passages Where “All” Cannot Mean “All Without Limitation”

Full Article: Bible Verses About “All” and “World”

Matthew 3:4-5

4 Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him

Matthew 3:4-5

Clearly, the word “all” here does not refer to “every single individual in Judea.” Rather, it means, “people from all over Judea and all over the region about the Jordan.

Luke 2:1

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.

Luke 2:1

Obviously, the word “all” here does not refer to “every single individual in the world.” Rather, it means, “everyone in the Roman empire.”

Analyzing Bible Passages that Use “all” or “world”

John 3:16 – “God so loved the world… whoever believes…”

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

The phrase, “the world,” in John 3:16 must be understood in the context of both John 3:16 and the rest of the Bible. Even in John 3:16, we see that only “whoever believes” will receive eternal life. So, it is entirely possible that John equating “the world” with “whoever believes,” in which case John would be saying something along the lines of, “For God so loved people from all over the world who believe in Christ…”

The interpretation that John 3:16 is saying that God loves every individual in the world in such a way that every individual has the freedom to believe in Christ is simply one interpretation that is not explicitly taught by this verse, and indeed is contradicted by Scripture’s clear teaching about the doctrine of election

John 4:39-42 – “Savior of the world”

39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

John 4:39-42

In this passage, when the Samaritans say that Jesus is the “Savior of the world,” they are saying that Jesus is the savior of not only the Jews, but also the Gentiles. They are surprised that Jesus would reach out to a ”’Samaritan”’ woman, when Samaritans were looked down upon by the Jews.

It simply makes far more sense to believe that the Samaritans are using the word “world” to refer to not only the Jewish group of people, but also the Gentile group of people, than that they are referring to every individual person in the world.

1 Corinthians 15:22 – “in Adam all die… in Christ shall all be made alive (Bible and “all”)

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

1 Corinthians 15:22

This verse helps us understand what the word “all” means in relationship to salvation. While the word “all” in “in Adam all die” refers to every individual human in the world, the word “all” in “in Christ shall all be made alive” simply cannot refer to every individual human in the world because we know from the clear teaching of Scripture that not every human will be saved, or “made alive.”

Instead, what this verse is saying is that ”’all who are represented by Adam”’ (every individual human) die, and ”’all who are represented by Christ”’ (everyone who is saved) will be made alive.

1 Timothy 2:1-6 – “desires all people to be saved”, “ransom for all”

1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

1 Timothy 2:1-6

The context of 1 Timothy 2 helps us understand what the word “all” means in verses 4 and 6. In the phrases, “desires all people to be saved” and “ransom for all,” the word “all” does not refer to ”every individual person”, but rather to classes, or groups, of people.

In verses 1-2, Paul clarifies how he is using the word “all.” He writes, “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for ”’all people, for kings and all who are in high positions”’.” Here, “all people” does not refer to every individual person, but rather to particular classes, or groups, of people, for example, “kings and all who are in high positions.”

Titus 2:1-11 – “salvation for all people”

1 But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. 2 ”’Older men”’ are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. 3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. 6 Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. 7 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8 and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. 9 Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people

Titus 2:1-11

The context of Titus 2 helps us understand what the word “all” means in verse 11. In the phrase, “salvation for all people,” the word “all” does not refer to every individual person, but rather to classes, or groups, of people.

In verses 1-10, Paul clarifies how he is using the word “all.” He refers to ”’groups”’ of people, namely, “older men,” “older women,” “young women,” “younger men,” and “bondservants.” The phrase, “all people,” is used in reference to these groups of people, not to every individual person.

Revelation 5:9 – “every tribe and language and people and nation”

And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation

Revelation 5:9

Although this verse does not contain the words “all” or “world,” it is directly relevant to the topic because it states who Jesus died for—not every individual person in the world, but rather people from various ”’groups”’ of people, namely, people “from every tribe and language and people and nation.”

Related to the Bible and “all”

It is clear that when the Bible uses the word “all,” it does not mean every individual in the world, as. some Arminians claim. Below are additional resources related to this objection against Calvinism.

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