The Salvation of All Men

This morning I read John Calvin's sermon on 1 Timothy 2:3-5, "The Salvation of All Men" in a collection of his messages on the Pastoral epistles. For those who are wrestling with the doctrine of election, its relationship to God's will for "all men" to be saved, and our work of evangelism this is a good read. Of course we have modern books that deal with the topic as well. J.I. Packer's Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God has become a standard read on the subject. Packer's is an important and helpful book, but I always enjoy going back and reading the men on whose shoulders we all stand. And if you don't want to begin with a book, Calvin's sermon is short enough to read in one easy sitting. Calvin distinguishes between "all" without exception (every individual) and "all" without distinction (every kind and class of person). He says summarily, "Thus we see what St. Paul meaneth when he saith, God will have all men to be saved: that is, He will have some of all nations, and all conditions."

What I loved about the sermon is that Calvin continued to use biblical language throughout it. He explained what it means, "God desires the salvation of all men," and continued to use the expression over, and over again. I know many Calvinists who would agree with the Reformer in doctrine, but not follow his example in using the Biblical words for fear of giving the wrong impression of their doctrine. Though I believe in limited atonement (in an even more restricted sense than Calvin did) I have no problem saying "Christ died for the sins of the world." Though they need explanation, to not use biblical words is at best paranoid, and worst unfaithful.

I also loved that he earnestly appeals that the church pursue the savation of all men. He calls us to work hard and to pray to God for the salvation of all those who are "far off."

Therefore, we may be so much the more assured that God taketh and holdeth us for His children, if we endeavor to bring those to Him who are afar off. Let us comfort ourselves, and take courage in this our calling: although there be at this day a great forlornness, though we seem to be miserable creatures, utterly cast away and condemned, yet we must labor as much as possible to draw those to salvation who seem to be afar off. And above all things, let us pray to God for them, waiting patiently till it please Him to show His good will toward them, as He hath shown it to us.

If you don't want to buy the book, you can read Calvin's sermon in its entirety online here.