Saturday, March 19, 2011

Does "all" Really Mean ALL?

There's an ongoing debate about passages in the bible that use the word "all" - or other similar words like "any" - over the scope of the word.  Does "all" really mean all?  Does God desire all people to be saved?  Does God want any people to perish?  All die in Adam, but all are made alive in Christ.  Uhm, all?  What does "all" mean here?  Does all really mean all, or should the meaning of the word be altered or modified because of somebody's pet theology figured out elsewhere in the bible and placed over the top of the word in a particular passage?

It seems like universalists have a tendency to take the word all and make it look like all people are going to be saved.  And it seems like the Arminians have a tendency to take the word all and make it look like God made it possible for all people to be saved, but of course not all will.  And it seems like the Calvinists have a tendency to take the word all and make it look like God will save all...all of his elect people, that is.

I'd like to look at some of these passages that use these kinds of words in upcoming posts and try to figure out what these words actually mean.  I believe there is a way to figure out the meanings of all and any in those debated passages, and I'd like to offer my ideas.  Stay tuned for all future From the Pew posts.


  1. It seems to me there are lots of "all"s in the Bible. Another similar word... "whosoever" as in John 3:16.

    We tend to take the right or left (as in Arminianist/Calvinist debate or the universalist debate). Is there a 3rd or even 4th alternative with both the right or left being wrong.

  2. Another interesting passage is 1 John 2:2. The word "all" isn't found in that passage. Instead, it says "the whole world." But, like the word "all," this phrase is interpreted differently based on the interpreters theological background.


  3. Joel,

    Yes, that is a good question. I have found that often in life we are given a choice between two wrongs as if one of them had to be right.


    Yep, that's another good one. What does John mean by the whole world? All people? The earth itself? The earth AND all people? Being biased toward God's truth, it shouldn't take me very long to figure it all out. LOL

  4. All I know....

    BTW nice new look for your blog.

  5. How about this one: Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

    Every creature? Really? Micro-organisms, too?