Whole Counsel Theology

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Sermon Review Part the Fourth: 1 Timothy 2:1-7

Yes, this is the fourth part of the series. :) I don't know how many there will be, but I'm not going to cap it. The first post in the series can be found here, and I might put them all together at some point.

Others have done some excellent work on this passage, others who I look up to a good deal (and you can find such posts here and here and I encourage reading them/listening to them), but I wanted to do some exegesis on the text myself so I have something to post here rather than just redirect people around the Net.

In any case, since I've explained in some detail the grammatical uses of the word "all" (Greek: pas), we can now go into one of the most commonly used proof texts those who hold to a general redemption use to support their case: 1 Timothy 2. However, nearly always when I've seen this passage used to defend General Redemption, only verses 3-4 are cited (which is what my former pastor did). This is insufficient context to determine the scope of what Paul is saying to Timothy; to get the full understanding, we need to consult verses 1-7, which I have cited below in the ESV (any emphasis is mine):
1 Timothy 2:1 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. (7) For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

Ah, there it is! There is that word all! Many jump to the conclusion that, because we have the word "all" present, that every single person is meant by the word. However, as seen in my previous post, that is an irresponsible thing to do without closer examination.

We need to ask ourselves what the context is here, and where verses 3-4 (not to mention 6) fall. Paul begins this chapter in his letter to Timothy exhorting him to pray for "all people." Now, what does this mean?

First, we have our universal quantifier. It has a referent: people. Some translations render the word "men," but "people" will certainly suffice. So then, we have "all people" as the objects Timothy is to intercede for, to pray for. Yet, is that all Paul wrote regarding this group, this "all people"?

No, it is not. Paul qualifies this even further in verse two, saying Timothy is to pray "for kings and all who are in high positions." These are the KINDS of people Timothy is to be praying for, and for the purpose of being able to live quiet, peaceful, godly lives.

Paul was telling Timothy (and subsequently, the people over whom Timothy had authority) to pray for people that he wouldn't normally pray for. "Kings and all those who are in high positions" would be people who would be oppressing Christians, as would become increasingly the case as history tells us. Instead of getting a harsh attitude and neglecting to love his enemies, Paul gives him a very practical way Timothy can do so, just as Jesus did: praying for them, and even thanking God for them.

To suggest that Paul is telling Timothy to pray for every single individual in Ephesus also doesn't seem to make sense, given that he wouldn't have known every person in the city, and he clearly wouldn't have known every person in the entire world. However, he COULD pray for different KINDS of people in the world, such as kings and other rulers. The context would suggest that this "all people" in verse one (and the subsequent description in verse two) then refers to just that -- all KINDS of people rather than every person individually.

Paul then goes on to give the basis for his for his urging in the first verse when he goes on to verses three and four: God is pleased by this, and He desires all people to be saved.

In order to understand what Paul means by "all people" here we need a bit more context than is provided. Just like the example I used of my being in a library (see previous post regarding "all") and making a comment about "all the books," we have to ask what Paul is saying by "all people." Has he established some sort of limiter by what he was talking about before, or does he mean all people without exception?

The context indicates to us that the former is the case. If I were to say "I want to read all the books," while standing in a library, it would be understood that I would want to read all the books in that library, and not every book in the entire world (which wouldn't be possible anyway). Furthermore, there is no reason at all to think that Paul is using "all people" differently in verse from how he is in verse one. He's simply building on his idea, and therefore, since he was talking about "all kinds" of people in verse 1, he's doing the same thing in verse 4 and throughout this passage.[1] Truly, God does indeed want people saved from every kind of person in the world. How can we know this? He BOUGHT some from every kind of people in the world and proved it. So then, it is fairly clear that not every individual is meant here, but rather, every kind of person.[2]

Verses five through seven finish off Paul's thought for this section, indicating that there is only one mediator (Greek: mesites) between God and men, and that is Jesus. Paul then says that He is the ransom for "all," with the word standing alone, and thus being used as a substantive. So, we must look around for the referent, and we find it in verse 5 -- the word "men," which is the same Greek word used for "people" in verses one and four. So then, we see "all men" or "all people" again, though it is spread over two verses rather than being contained in one. To be consistent, we must understand that Paul is talking about Jesus's ransom on behalf of all kinds of people (or "men"), rather than every individual person. This is further corroborated by the use of the term "mediator" in verse five (since a mediator only acts as a go-between for people who actually are in covenant with each other, which is NOT every individual but IS every kind) and Paul's statement about the Gentiles (a KIND of people) in verse 7.

So then, to read this passage as if it is talking about every single individual in the world is to read our presuppositions into it rather than getting out of it what Paul put it. The former is very easy to do, which is a large reason why I think it is the majority viewpoint; the latter requires slowing down and exegeting the text to get at the author and Holy Spirit intended meaning.

May God be glorified by the proper understanding of His Word.

SDG,
David Benjamin Hewitt


________________________________________________
1. This comes into play when we examine the word "this" that begins verse three. It is a neuter, singular, demonstrative pronoun, and it refers back to the whole of what Paul was talking about in the first two verses. Since Paul's point there was all kinds of people, it seems quite clear that he's not changing his train of thought from what he meant by "all people" from verse one to verse 4 (not to mention the rest of the passage).

2. This is of course not to say that God takes delight in people's destruction and doesn't want them to come to Him to avoid it. Indeed, the Bible tells us that God doesn't take any pleasure in the death of anyone, and we see that in Ezekiel. Yet, there is another passage that forces us to realize that this is not all of the picture, and that is Deuteronomy 28:63 (with the larger context of Deuteronomy 28:58-64). The word used for God's delight here in Deuteronomy (both times it is used) is even stronger than that used over in Ezekiel. So then, we are forced to say in one sense, God does not desire nor take pleasure in the destruction of anyone. However, there is another sense in where he DOES take delight in it, in punishing them for their sins in their evil, willful rebellion against their Creator Who has been kind to them with sight to their eyes, breath to their lungs, and rain for their land (among countless other things). What is God's ultimate purpose in this? The Bible doesn't leave us without an answer, though, sadly, many don't care for it.

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8 Comments:

  • Wow, I see you made the Calvinist Gadfly. That is pretty impressive. Now you should be getting some flaming arrows your way.

    :-)

    By Blogger Howard Fisher, at Thursday, November 02, 2006 9:34:00 AM  

  • Hi David,

    I examined the essence of this type of argument awile back in this post:

    Contextual Cow Patties

    Basically, you're jumping from the idea of "all kinds" to "some of all kinds" (the elect from among all kinds) in your analysis. On the contrary, the sense of "all" remains the same throughout the immediate context. So, it's better to interpret the passage as referring to the revealed will of God rather than argue for a decretal will sense, as if Paul is talking about Christ dying for the elect. Paul is not encouraging Timothy to pray for elect Kings and elect people in authority. You would have to say that if you're going to press your sense of "all" in verse 6 and apply it to the first two verses. Your argument has Paul equivocating on the sense of "all" in just 6 verses.

    Also, it's not true that Christ only mediates for the elect. He could pray, "Father, forgive them..." from the cross itself. Such a prayer is consistent with the preceptive will of God. Indescriminately praying for unbelievers this way is a kind of mediation. Saying this does not negate the effectual or decretal will of God.

    Your argument also says that Christ only mediates for those in covenant with God. Who are they but believers? However, in your argument on verse 6, you're taking the "all" in the sense of the unbelieving elect as well as the believing elect, thus Christ gave himself for "all" the elect, whether believing or not. Are all the unbelieving elect in the New Covenant? I don't think so (let's not blur the crucial distinction between virtual and real union), for they are not yet in real union with Christ through faith, and thus abide under God's wrath.

    All this is just to say that the attempt of some Calvinists to decretalize the text just ends up warping it. Taking it as referencing the revealed will of God is much better and in no way argues against Calvinistic soteriology. The non-Calvinist just errs in using this passage to argue that Christ EQUALLY mediates for all men and EQUALLY intended the salvation of mankind when he suffered sufficiently for all.

    By Blogger YnottonY, at Thursday, November 02, 2006 10:50:00 AM  

  • "Such a prayer is consistent with the preceptive will of God. Indescriminately praying for unbelievers this way is a kind of mediation. Saying this does not negate the effectual or decretal will of God."

    I must admit with ynottony that I have questioned the idea that I am not able to pray for "all" men that live in Scott City, KS. I am not sure how the argument that I do not know everyone or every name means that I am not able to pray for Scott City, KS as a whole.

    But the context also has Jesus mediating. How could this not be specific mediation? Yet, Paul doesn't explain the relationship of Christ's perfect mediation and how we should also pray for "all" men. Or does he?

    I am going to have to go through that text again and rethink these issues that you have raised David.

    There is one problem with the above critique though. It uses a verse [Father forgive them...] that is a variant and probably was not a part of the original text.

    These are good things to think about and need to be worked through thoroughly.

    God Bless

    Howard

    By Blogger Howard Fisher, at Thursday, November 02, 2006 1:06:00 PM  

  • Tony:

    I'm not arguing for a limiting sense, or suggesting that Timothy merely pray for "elect kings." That's not my point, nor was it ever.

    I am saying, however, that we're talking about groups of people, and that is Paul's point. Kings are a KIND of people, just as Gentiles are a kind of people, and Jesus mediates indeed for all kinds of people. That was my point.

    Never did I say here, or in the post I made on your blog a while back, that I am trying to say that Paul is merely speaking of the elect in this passage.

    I would agree that the argument about not being able to pray for every individual, by itself, is not the strongest argument, which is why I worded it this way:

    "To suggest that Paul is telling Timothy to pray for every single individual in Ephesus also doesn't seem to make sense, given that he wouldn't have known every person in the city, and he clearly wouldn't have known every person in the entire world."

    At the same time, the context of the Gentiles in verse seven, and also the fact that kings/rulers are a CATEGORY of people that would not normally be getting the attention of prayer, I am forced to understand Paul meaning all kinds of people in this passage.

    Of course, all the unbelieving elect are not in the New Covenant yet (though they will be), but again, that is not my point here, nor the point of the passage. Paul's point in this passage doesn't appear to be election at all; rather, it is about the far reaching need of prayer and how the redemptive work of Christ (not to mention His mediation) is far-reaching, going out to all peoples of the world.

    I hope that helps, though I am still honestly baffled by you thinking I meant that Timothy was told only to pray for the elect (moving from "all kinds" to "some of all kinds")....unless you're reading into me some kind of "Owenic presupposition." (grin)

    SDG,
    DBH

    By Blogger David B. Hewitt, at Thursday, November 02, 2006 4:38:00 PM  

  • Furthermore, Tony, you didn't address my footnotes at the bottom either. I don't have a problem saying that God, in some sense, desires all people everywhere to be saved (hence my citing of passages from Ezekiel). However, I am saying you cannot establish this from 1 Timothy, given that Paul is talking about classes of people rather than individuals. Having read both of your posts over at your blog (the one regarding 1 Timothy 2 and the one on 2 Peter 3:9 [though not all of the comments on the latter]), it seems we're talking past each other in some way.

    In any case, I won't get into 2 Peter 3:9 here, given that I've addressed it elsewhere and the fact that I'll be doing so again, probably this evening, given that it is another proof-text verse my pastor used in the last sermon I heard him preach, the sermon I am in the process of reviewing here.

    SDG,
    DBH

    By Blogger David B. Hewitt, at Thursday, November 02, 2006 6:01:00 PM  

  • Gee... that last sentence in my previous comment sure got long and wordy. :)

    By Blogger David B. Hewitt, at Thursday, November 02, 2006 8:19:00 PM  

  • Hi David,

    I did read your footnote. I realize that you believe that God desires the salvation of all. However, you don’t think that Christ died to save all, do you? If God wants to save all mankind, is it by means of a blood sacrifice or apart from a blood sacrifice? If it's by means of a blood sacrifice, then there must be a sense in which Christ died to save all. Since I don’t have a problem with affirming that Christ suffered sufficiently for all mankind as classical Calvinism understands it, I don’t have a problem with the “all” saying that very thing in 1 Tim. 2:6. Since you disagree, the “all” in verse 6 has to mean something other that which would include non-elect people. So, you appeal to the “context” to get the idea of “all kinds” in verses 1, 2 and 4. Then, in verse 6, the sense of “all” is subtly converted into “some of all kinds,” i.e. all kinds of the elect.

    Now you’ve made the either/or dilemma such that “Paul is talking about classes of people rather than individuals.” That seems like a false dilemma to me. Paul is not encouraging Timothy and others to pray for abstract classes, but for particular individuals in those classes. Paul’s not telling them to pray for Platonic forms, but for definite individuals in various classes. Frankly, I don’t see how your “classes of people rather than individuals” dichotomy can square with this passage at all. It’s just as odd as some non-Calvinists who say that God predestinates nations and not individuals. You even said the quantifier all “has a referent: people.”

    Moreover, I didn’t claim that you were saying that Paul was telling people to pray for elect Kings or elect people. Here are my words again:

    “Paul is not encouraging Timothy to pray for elect Kings and elect people in authority. You would have to say that if you're going to press your sense of "all" in verse 6 and apply it to the first two verses.”

    Here’s an analysis that may help you see my point. Here are two claims:

    1) Tony is saying that David’s position is that Paul told Timothy to pray for the elect.

    2) Tony is saying that David’s position would entail that Paul told Timothy to pray for all the elect, if he takes his sense of “all” in verse 6 and applies it to verses 1 and 2.

    If I were arguing #1 above, I would be committing a straw man fallacy. However, if I am arguing #2 above, then that’s a reductio ad absurdum type argument. If I were arguing #1, then David could cry “straw man!” Since I am arguing #2 and not #1, you have not unintentionally committed a straw man fallacy by saying my argument is #1 instead of #2. In effect, you’ve straw man’d my reductio :-)

    See this post for more on this issue:

    The Difference Between “P is Q” and “P entails Q”

    If I am arguing #2 above,, i.e. the reductio ad absurdum argument (“if you say that, then this follows”), the question then becomes: Is it a sound argument or not? The question is not whether you hold to the absurd conclusion (you obviously don't), but do your present views ENTAIL such an absurd conclusion?

    By using the false either/or dilemma of “all without distinction” vs. “all without exception,” you sought to argue that the sense of “all” in verse 6 is basically “all kinds of elect people scattered throughout the world.” Since the first few verses must have the sense of “all kinds,” you seek to argue that context entails the same sense in verse 6. In order to do that, one must equivocate in one’s argumentation. “All kinds” subtly transforms into “some of all kinds” or “some elect from all kinds” (or “some from every kind” as you put it) in the process of the argument. You said this, “it seems quite clear that he's not changing his train of thought from what he meant by "all people" from verse one to verse 4 (not to mention the rest of the passage).” Then, you say this: “I am saying, however, that we're talking about groups of people, and that is Paul's point. Kings are a KIND of people, just as Gentiles are a kind of people, and Jesus mediates indeed for all kinds of people. That was my point.” Does Jesus mediate for all kinds of non-elect unbelieving people? How then can you avoid an equivocation fallacy in your argument? When Paul speaks of their need to pray for Kings and all who are in authority, he’s not descriminating between elect and non-elect unbelieving Kings (or between Jew and Gentile Kings – he wishes them all to be prayed for and saved), as you’ve admitted. So, if Paul is not doing that, then how do you get to the idea that “Jesus mediates indeed for all kinds of [Tony: insert ELECT here] people.” That is what you seem to mean. Or are you saying that Jesus mediates for abstract classes and not for individuals? That would make no sense. Jesus mediates for individuals who occupy various stations in life, not for Platonic forms hahaha :-) Think about it.

    One other note about the covenant issue. I think it’s clear from the context that Paul is speaking about the need for the church to pray for all kinds of LOST people. If then, as you say, “a mediator only acts as a go-between for people who actually are in covenant with each other,” what can the “all” mean in verse 6 but those who are “actually in covenant with God”? Thus, not only do you equivocate in moving from “all kinds” (verses 1, 2, and 4) to “some from all kinds,” (verse 6) but you, by implication, jump from “all kinds of UNBELIEVERS” (verses 1, 2, and 4) to “some of all kinds of BELIEVERS” (verse 6), since you say Christ only mediates for those “ACTUALLY in covenant.”

    Why is all of this sophistication necessary? It’s necessary for your system because it’s incompatible with a general ransom or general redemption view, even with the moderate or classical Calvinistic sort. You’re in the process of protecting a strictly limited atonement viewpoint, and therefore the “all’s” require unnecessarily sophisticated, post-16th century re-definitions. I once argued the same way on this passage and others, so I am aware of your Owenic pain :-)

    Howard,
    I am aware of the textual variant issue. However, even if we assume that the “Father forgive them…” statement is not in the original, are we to assume that Christ never prayed for unbelievers, no matter who they are? He tells us to pray that the Fathers preceptive will be done on earth as it is in heaven, and are we not to think that he prayed the same? I think so. As I said above, “He COULD pray, "Father, forgive them..." from the cross itself. Such a prayer is consistent with the preceptive will of God.” One need not negate Christ’s effectual mediation to affirm a general mediation as well, since he is the last Adam or head of the human race. He’s not the last Adam for the elect alone.

    By Blogger YnottonY, at Friday, November 03, 2006 5:46:00 AM  

  • Hey, Tony. A few things that I don't quite understand from your post.

    You said:
    "However, you don’t think that Christ died to save all, do you? If God wants to save all mankind, is it by means of a blood sacrifice or apart from a blood sacrifice? If it's by means of a blood sacrifice, then there must be a sense in which Christ died to save all."

    I think you've missed my point in my citing of Ezekiel 18. Jesus didn't die with the intent of propitiating every single person. I know you've argued Owen's "double-jeopardy" argument has holes, but your argumentation seems lacking. I'll go into the issue of propitiation later on when I deal a bit with 1 John 2:2.

    The thing is, you're drawing an unwarranted conclusion. Yes, the only way for someone to be saved is through the blood sacrifice of Christ. So, given that, you say, "Then, since God doesn't take pleasure in anyone's death (and thus wishes everyone to be saved), He must then have provided a blood sacrifice for them to be." This doesn't really follow. My argument is that God wants them to be saved because His loving nature takes no pleasure in their destruction. At the same time, His righteous, just nature DOES delight in that same destruction (given the Deuteronomy passage). Let's take that one for a moment.

    If you were to go that route from the Deuteronomy passage, that is, the blood atonement provision route, then you could say that since God delighted in destroying them, there wasn't a provision offered for them! After all, since it is his delight to bring ruin on them (which would be ultimate for many of them, leading to their deaths), then why do anything that would act to the contrary of His delight (like providing a sacrifice on their behalf)?

    The sword cuts both ways; you cannot use an argument that will work against you just as much as it would for you.

    You also said:
    "Moreover, I didn’t claim that you were saying that Paul was telling people to pray for elect Kings or elect people."

    Ah. Well, I clearly misunderstood part of that. Your points 1 and 2 below that clarify nicely, and thank you for doing so. I erred in that regard and apologize.

    In any case, the problem that you've presented... well, I don't really see it as that big of a problem.

    Indeed, there is a difference between those who are lost in the first verses and those who would be saved (or who will be saved) in verses 5 and 6. Not all of those in the first part of the chapter will be saved necessarily (not all of the kings will be saved, for example), yet all of the ones ransomed will indeed be saved (else God would be unjust).

    I'll expand on the latter of those more in a coming post, but the point is just this. Of course we're going to have to get more specific in order to pray for "kings and all in authority." Though there is nothing wrong with praying for a group of people, it does indeed make sense that, having received Paul's admonition to pray for an oft neglected group of people, Timothy would pray for specific kings. By the same token, of course Jesus didn't just ransom or mediate for general groups of people, but rather for specific individuals. What you say in that regard is true.

    However, your argument doesn't hold. Just because it DOES move to the specific from the general in application (that is, the larger doctrine of the Atonment or of Jesus's mediation) does NOT mean that Paul is doing that HERE. You accuse me of equivocation, yet it seems that you are doing the same thing in that regard. Further, just because the completion of the need for prayer requires us to pray for individuals, and just because Jesus did indeed ransom individuals rather than groups doesn't mean Paul was taking his argument that far IN THIS PASSAGE.

    Paul's point is that there is a group that often gets overlooked, so pray with that in mind. He then says that God wants all groups to come to Christ, and then mentions Jesus's ransom with regard to the same thing -- all kinds of people, and clinches it off with the comment about the Gentiles in verse seven to seal the deal.

    Are there some differences here between the two groups, ie those prayed for and those ransomed? In some sense, yes, as mentioned above, but in another sense, NO, because the flow of thought can and does continue with kinds of people, even though different things are happening to them.

    Going beyond that in this passage creates problems. Said a little more strongly, going to the conclusion that individuals and not groups must eventually be prayed for and that individuals, not groups must indeed be ransomed (or some out of those groups as I think you put it) goes beyond Paul's argument. The conclusion is NOT in the text, and is really eisegesis.

    You logical conclusions are taking you too far. Let the text say what the text says and no more; Paul goes into the rest of what you were saying ELSEWHERE, and not here.

    By Blogger David B. Hewitt, at Saturday, November 04, 2006 6:54:00 PM  

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